A Real, In-Person Outing for Art or History Lovers
Are you stewing in cabin fever and culture cravings? Tired of a lack of safe ways to pursue entertainments or pastimes after six months of social distancing?
Here’s some good news for those who love art and history: the CALS Roberts Library is open, including the lovely Galleries at Library Square and the Research Room on the second floor. Currently, all spaces are open from 1 p.m. to 5 p.m. on Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays for the general public. From 9 a.m. to 11 a.m. on those weekdays, we also allow a limited opening just for our visitors who are over the age of 60 or otherwise at greater risk from the pandemic.
So when you are desperate for a safe stroll through downtown attractions, you have somewhere to go! You can come on your own or bring your pandemic buddy to tour our exhibitions, browse our retail gallery, or research local and family history in our archives.
We thought we would take you along with us on a quick tour of the multiple galleries and the Research Room so we can show you how a safe, refreshing in-person outing works right now at the Roberts Library.
Walk with us on a model visit
All you have to do is go to the main entrance of the Roberts Library, which is at 401 President Clinton Avenue across from the River Market. (Though the River Market building is closed, many other local shops and restaurants are open downtown to allow shopping and dining with masks and distancing.)
At the main entrance, you can either ring the doorbell or call 501-320-5790 to summon a friendly staff member. Most of the time, our staff will see you from the front desk in the lobby. When they come to get you, they will make sure you are wearing a required mask, and if you don’t have one, they will have one to offer you!
Once you come in, if you’re headed to the galleries, you’ll sign a guestbook on the first floor to record your visit and vouch that you don’t have virus symptoms. That’s it! Now you’re free to roam and discover, with the assurance of knowing that our visitor count is limited at any given time so there won’t be crowds inside.
Beauty, fun, and leisure in the Galleries at Library Square
Our galleries include elegant spaces where local artists exhibit formal shows. We also have a retail gallery that is chock-full of light and color and fun things to browse and buy. Everything in our art spaces is by Arkansas artists, so your purchase supports the arts and our local economy. It’s never too early to start your holiday shopping…
The galleries do not require an appointment to visit. When you come in, our staff members will be right there to help direct you to the exhibitions or to find the perfect gift, if you are in a rush. Shannon Holmes, our retail gallery director, often fields requests such as “what do you have with hummingbirds?” She is happy to show visitors the many arts and crafts that might suit their gift needs. People are often surprised not only by the beauty of the gallery’s creations, but by their affordability. We have fine arts and crafts including pottery, jewelry, paintings, and sculpture, and we also carry fun everyday items such as tea towels, t-shirts, kitchen spoons, and cheese boards. It’s a perfect place to while away an hour reveling in creativity and craftsmanship.
Colin Thompson curates our exhibition galleries, which include several rotating exhibitions on the first floor, in the mezzanine Loft Gallery, and in the basement-level Underground Gallery. If you prefer to enjoy the art by yourself, go right ahead. But if you have any questions about the art, the artists, or making a purchase, Colin is there to help.
In our West Gallery, we’re currently showing ledger art by Native American artists from the 1980s to the present. This fascinating show includes art created on repurposed surfaces such as ledgers from the J.W. Wiggins Contemporary Native American Art Collection of UA Little Rock. The program is funded in part by a grant from the Division of Arkansas Heritage, in honor of the 50th anniversary of the publication of Arkansas author Dee Brown’s Bury My Heart at Wounded Knee.
In our Underground Gallery, you can take in the beautiful work of a number of local artists in the Arkansas League of Artists members’ show. And in the Loft Gallery, well-known local artist John Kushmaul exhibits his characteristic flair for color and architecture in Little Rock scenes and more.
Find your place in history in the archives
If you want to investigate our local history and genealogy resources, you will ride the elevator (one person or family group at a time for safety) to our second floor, where you can sign in with the Research Room’s guestbook.
Appointments are recommended for browsing the Research Room, though a certain number of walk-ins are also accepted.
Inside, you’ll find a peaceful library setting with trained staff at the front desks.
Research material includes thousands of sources such as city directories and company records; books of history from local, national, and international sources; and microfilm of various local periodicals or government records.
Requesting materials from the closed stacks
If you want to examine records or artifacts in our closed stacks, an appointment is mandatory. To make your appointment, you will call the archives for the Butler Center for Arkansas Studies (the CALS archival organization) at (501) 320-5700 or email firstname.lastname@example.org in advance to request that the staff pull materials from the back shelves for you. It will be waiting for you when you come in.
The website where you can search our local history materials catalog is www.arstudies.com. So, happy hunting, and when you have found the records for the photos, documents, or letters that may be part of your historical detective work, just let us know and we’ll set up your appointment to view the items.
See the sights and discover curiosities, while staying safe
We are looking forward to the day when we can welcome everyone back in person to our popular Second Friday Art Night with music, snacks, and art exhibitions. But until then, we welcome you to this safe, alternative way to soak in some art or history. Just give us a call or stop by. There’s lots to see and enjoy here at the Roberts Library. And we are still offering lots of digital events, too! Access those here: https://robertslibrary.org/virtual-programming-from-cals-roberts-library/
By Rosslyn Elliott, Creative Writer at the Central Arkansas Library System