From the Vault: Art for the Young at Heart from the CALS Permanent Collection

Extended till May 31, 2024
Children’s Gallery at the Hillary Rodham Clinton Children’s Library & Learning Center

The Central Arkansas Library System (CALS) houses more than just books. The library’s art program also actively collects and exhibits works by artists working and living in Arkansas. This eclectic exhibition features pieces by artists and illustrators whose vibrant works capture the joys of adventure and exploration.

This exhibition was created in honor of recently retired CALS deputy executive director Lisa Donovan, who was an early proponent and tireless supporter of the Children’s Gallery and Children’s Library.

CALS Deputy Director Lisa Donovan retired this year after twenty-plus years of service to the library. She started as a part-time children’s programmer when the Main Library opened in the River Market area of downtown Little Rock in 1997. Over the years, Donovan took on many roles at the library, including Manager of the Children’s Department at Main, Summer Reading Coordinator, Director of Youth Services, and finally Deputy Executive Director. She is looking forward to enjoying many more library adventures as a patron in the years to come and sharing those moments with her grandchildren.

Lisa Donovan grew up in a big family in suburban Memphis in the 1960s. The youngest of four children, she could always be found with a book in her hand. It wasn’t easy for Lisa to find a peaceful place to read, so her brother set out to solve that problem by building her a treehouse. It quickly became her favorite place to read, do homework, and watch the world go by.

Lisa’s insatiable reading appetite prompted a visit to the neighborhood library one Saturday morning. Stepping into the cool, quiet sanctuary, she was surrounded by an abundance of books that surpassed even the school library. Lisa went home that day with a library card and a stack of books. She had discovered yet another happy place.

She relocated to Arkansas for high school and college and beyond, and her journey took a significant turn when she read in the newspaper about a unique opportunity. The Central Arkansas Library System had moved its Main Library to a new spot in Little Rock’s River Market District, and they were in search of a part-time children’s programmer to help with storytimes. That sounded like the perfect job to Lisa.

A lifelong library enthusiast, Lisa’s connection persists as she eagerly anticipates the next phase—enjoying the library as a patron. Lisa Donovan, forever a library lover, leaves behind a legacy of passion and service, as well as a boundless appreciation for the world within library walls.

Read more about Lisa’s retirement and legacy on the CALS blog.

Featured art: Bow and Arrow by Katherine Strause

What did you learn in school today? exhibit

Jay Youngdahl: What Did You Learn in School Today?

On view Friday, April 12–Saturday, June 29, 2024
Underground Gallery, CALS Roberts Library

The core of this exhibition features textbooks used to teach students in Little Rock and throughout Arkansas in the mid-twentieth century. The artist Jay Youngdahl uses the books and their history to consider how textbooks influence students and inculcate them with ideas they act upon later in life. It features photography and sculptural elements, including a thematic “Penny Machine.” Visitors will be furnished with pennies to use in the machine, providing a souvenir from the show.

Jay Youngdahl, a Little Rock native, received his MFA at the Art Institute of Chicago and is a photographer, writer, and conceptual artist. He says, “I attended Little Rock public schools, grades one through twelve, from 1958 to 1970, graduating from Meadowcliff Elementary, Southwest Junior High School, and Hall High School. These were unsettled years in Little Rock, coming on the heels of the Central High School crisis and during the national movement for civil rights. Issues of race were a constant part of life, not only for Little Rock’s African American community, but also for a middle-class white boy like me from southwest Little Rock. For Little Rock’s white community there was no middle ground: you were either an integrationist or a segregationist. This exhibition is based on what my fellow students and I were taught in Little Rock schools about race, slavery, and the Civil War during that time.”

Youngdahl has worked as an organizer and lawyer for southern workers, in Arkansas and throughout the South. His life took an academic turn beginning in his fifties. He received a master’s in divinity at Harvard University in 2007 and was chosen to be a university-wide Fellow there in Sustainable Finance and later Ethics during the 2010s. His art practice began in 2018 and focuses on art that emanates from his life, which he calls “participatory action art.” His show The Mangroves of Masters Bayou was exhibited at the Brizdle-Schoenberg Special Collections Center, Alfred R. Goldstein Library, Ringling College of Art + Design, February 13–April 21, 2023. His family continues to reside in Little Rock.

Beginning in fall 2023, the Main Library is undergoing a large-scale renovation. During that time, the Underground Gallery of the CALS Roberts Library will continue to have exhibitions on display. Please check back for information on exhibitions.

2nd Friday Art Night

Join us on the 2nd Friday of the month from 5pm to 8pm for 2nd Friday Art Night!

More details…

Past Exhibitions

Art Exhibition and Collection Management Policy

The Central Arkansas Library System (CALS) believes that the arts preserve and transmit our heritage, enrich our lives, and contribute significantly to the social, educational, and cultural well-being of all Arkansans.


Current & Past Exhibition Videos