Can’t-miss events of the Acansa Arts Festival


The Acansa Arts Festival, taking place Sept. 21-25 in Little Rock and North Little Rock, is now in its third year of uniting local and national talent in a world-class arts event that is both entertaining to spectators and beneficial to Arkansas’s arts community. Working collaboratively with the local arts organizations Ballet Arkansas, the Arkansas Arts Center, the Arkansas Repertory Theatre and the Arkansas Symphony Orchestra, Acansa delivers a multi-genre program highlighting exceptional works in music, theater and visual and performing arts. While it’s possible to take in the whole festival with an all-access pass, some might prefer to pick and choose events. Here are a few highlights from the week’s schedule.

Parsons Dance

There’s nothing we can say about this energetic, contemporary dance company from New York that they couldn’t show you better themselves. Check out the video, then see them live at 8 p.m. on Thursday, Sept. 22 at Pulaski Tech’s Fine and Performing Arts/Humanities Center. Tickets are $20. While in Little Rock, the ensemble will also teach master classes at the Academy at Riverdale and North Little Rock High School.

Cut, Pieced and Stitched: Denim Drawings by Jim Arendt

Hovering somewhere between collage and quilt, these life-sized portraits by South Carolina artist Jim Arendt explore labor, landscape and the artist’s Southern heritage in a medium that pulls a common thread through all three: denim. A reception and demonstration with the artist will take place at the Arkansas Arts Center Friday, Sept. 23 at 5:30 p.m.; tickets are $20. For those who can’t wait that long (or just want to glimpse the portraits), the exhibit is open now and free to the public through October 23.

My Mother Has Four Noses

This musical play, written and performed by Boston-bred singer-songwriter Jonatha Brooke, is a love story to her mother, whom she shepherded through Alzheimer’s disease. You might recognize Brooke’s name (and her voice) from her early career recording and performing with Jennifer Kimball as The Story. This new story, A New York Times Critic’s Pick, was described by critic Laura Collins-Hughes as “devastating and gorgeous. A poignantly funny, beautifully created narrative.” The show comes to us from 42nd Street (yes, that 42nd Street) for a two-night run at the Argenta Community Theater Sept. 23-24 at 8 p.m.

The Arkansas Symphony Orchestra with Jason Vieaux and Julien Labro

When was the last time you saw a Grammy-winning classical guitarist and bandoneonist perform with the ASO? (Bonus points if you know what a bandoneon is. Hint—picture an accordion, but smaller.) These two stellar performers will joint the ASO for an evening of tango-inspired music evocative of Argentina (where the bandoneon is a very popular instrument), Latin America and Spain. The show takes place at Pulaski Tech on Saturday, Sept. 24 at 8 p.m., and tickets are $35.

Sunday Gospel Brunch with St. Mark Baptist Church Sanctuary Choir

After last year’s sold-out performance, Acansa invited the St. Mark choir back to help close out the festival again this year. Wildwood Park for the Arts will serve as the idyllic setting for a morning of inspired food and even more inspiring music. Could there possibly be a better way to round off the festival and the week? Brunch is at 11 a.m. and the choir begins at noon. Tickets are $15 for the performance and $40 for the whole shebang.

If this sounds like a lot of art in a short amount of time, be fairly warned that this is just the beginning. To see the full lineup, which includes free “lunch and learn” artist demonstrations, more performances, after parties, receptions.