The Arkansas Symphony Orchestra (ASO) has brought great music to Little Rock for more than five decades. The symphony performs more than sixty concerts each season at the Robinson Center Music Hall and other locations around the state. hanks to donations from individuals and corporations, the ASO invites famous names to join in its performances, including former president Bill Clinton, former poet laureate Maya Angelou, and singer Aretha Franklin. The symphony is comprised of Arkansas’ most talented professional musicians and commands an audience of more than 250,000 patrons each year.
Founded in 1978, Ballet Arkansas is the premiere Ballet company in the state. With high standards for its young performers and a reputation for excellence, the Ballet’s annual performance of The Nutcracker Suite at the Robinson Center Music Hall is not to be missed.
The Arkansas Repertory Theatre, best known locally as “The Rep,” is central Arkansas’ only nonprofit professional theater. Located at intersection of 6th and Main streets downtown, The Rep is where theatre fans with distinctive taste gather to enjoy the comic and the tragic on stage. The Rep recently underwent a multi-million dollar renovation to enhance its amenities and expand its educational opportunities, including its summer classes and camps.
There are also vibrant community theatres in the Little Rock area, including the Argenta Community Theatre, The Studio Theatre, and the Weekend Theatre. These are nonprofit, volunteer organizations that aim to make theater art available to everyone. With low ticket prices, theatre goers can enjoy an exciting performance by Little Rock’s local talent.
The Arkansas Museum of Fine Arts is known as Arkansas’ leading cultural institution. Home to famous Renaissance and Impressionist paintings as well as modern drawings and sculptures, the AMFA has worked for the last thirty years to build a unique collection of American and European works. In addition to the art museum, the museum also offers special exhibitions, art classes, and a professional children’s theatre.
The Hearne Fine Art Gallery features a stunning collection of works by African-American artists. The Gallery was founded in 1988 and has since gathered many rare works including out-of-print books by African-American authors, some of which are autographed.
If visitors want to take a piece home with them, the Arkansas Studies Institute in the Rivermarket district houses four art galleries, including a retail gallery, featuring Arkansas artists.
Among the most popular cultural celebrations in Little Rock is International Greek Food Festival. The state’s largest ethnic food festival, the IGFF is a cultural celebration that includes Greek, Armenian, Georgian, Romanian, Russian, Indian, Middle Eastern, English and a dash of American cuisines and culinary traditions.
Other festivals include Oktoberfest, held each year at the Lutheran High School, the annual St. Patrick’s Day Parade, sponsored by the Irish Cultural Society of Arkansas, and the World Cheese Dip Championship. Arkansas has a claim as the epicenter of the cheese dip world, and this festival showcases dozens of different cheese dip recipes. Thousands turn out for this “cheesy” event. All proceeds from the event benefit Harmony Health Clinic, a 501(c)(3) provider of free medical and dental services to the uninsured and under-insured in Pulaski County, Arkansas.
Every October, families from all over the state look forward to games, rides, ice cream and smoked turkey legs at the annual Arkansas State Fair. The fair is held at the Arkansas State Fairgrounds and offers rides and games for all ages as well as a chance to watch competitions in livestock, creative arts and commercial wine sampling.
There are many other festivals all over the state, as well.