As both Vice President of Programming at Walton Arts Center and Founder of Potluck Arts, Jenni advocates and champions the creation of new artistic work under the belief that arts institutions have a responsibility to participate in the cultural building of communities, society, and world
SPIRAL WETLAND, ARTIST STACY LEVY, 2013
Sole commission for Artosphere Festival.
Inspired by the Spiral Jetty (1972) by Robert Smithson, one of the most famous and enduring of the land art pieces, Spiral Wetland reaches back to the beginning of eco-art but envisions the next stage of our thinking: to heal and transform the environment for better. These constructed wetlands help to remove excess nutrients from water by exposing the water to microbial processes facilitated by the plants and organic matter of the soil. They work to improve water quality and produce much-needed wetland habitats for fish and other water creatures while reminding us of the roots of land art.
Watching our community stand in the water, paddle to position the sculpture – then watching walkers and bikers discover the work – was beautiful. This project truly encapsulated what Artosphere is all about. Stacy reflects a clarity of vision and possibilities of how artists make an impact to the earth, and models an ideal collaborative process with partners and key-stakeholders.
OUT OF THE WOODWORK, ARTIST PATRICK DOUGHTERY, 2012
Sole commission for site installation piece for Artosphere Festival.
Dougherty combines his carpentry skills with his love of nature, to create works that explore the intersection of nature and structure. Around 1980, he began building small works in his backyard using primitive techniques, but he quickly moved from single pieces to monumental site-specific installations. Dougherty has built over two hundred space specific massive sculptures all over the world including Japan and the Scottish Highlands.
This was my first time at producing an artist-led, community-made piece of this scope and scale. Patrick is an incredible artist to design and build these sculptures within a three-week turnaround. What made it most fun was seeing how different community members rose to the occasion and really rolled up their sleeves and put in sweat and grit to finish this sculpture. We had to pull up brick, drill piers, harvest wood, and build scaffolding to get this one made. There was nothing like the thrill of standing on the top of the scaffolding and bending sticks to fill in the holes. With a life-span of roughly 3 years, it was a sad day to say goodbye to this amazing work. It was loved.
SLOW DANCING, ARTIST DAVID MICHALEK, 2008
This was the region’s largest public art initiative at the time. The project embodied and captured the distinctive nature of the NWA community and paved the way for
An ultimate achievement and one of my crown jewels. What seemed improbable wasn’t. Our board and CEO said let’s go for it, then our tech crew totally embraced the challenge. Funds were raised, equipment purchased and tada – Isabelle Guérin, former star of Paris Opera Ballet along with Bill T. Jones, Judith Jamison, Elizabeth Streb, Shen Wei, to name a few – were dancing on Dickson Street. On opening night, I remember thinking, OMG – this is happening. We had this marketing campaign that said, London, New York, Los Angeles, Fayetteville. It was just magical. I went every night for a month. I didn’t want to miss a moment of the magic.
FLOWERS: CULTIVATING THE NORTHWEST ARKANSAS NEIGHBORHOOD, ARTIST LEE LITTLEFIELD, 2007–2009
Sole commission of 30 colorful 15-30 feet floral and vegetal forms of sculpture sited along the I-540 (now I49) corridor between Fayetteville to Bella Vista
Installed April 27,
Lee was a tenacious artist – nothing stopped him and we had plenty of mountains to climb on this one. After being turned down by the Arkansas Highway Department for placement of the sculptures, our team had to go one by one to private property owners for approval. It was all worth it when we got a letter from a Missouri couple, who were traveling to and from the VA hospital in Fayetteville for cancer treatment. They told us they couldn’t wait to hit Arkansas where the bright colorful flowers were planted – they gave them hope and joy as they were going through treatment.
ANCIENT DANCES, WU MAN, 2006
Sole commission for new work by musician Wu Man with musician Chen Yi and videographer Catherine Owen.
Premiere, February 7, 2006, Walton Arts Center
Followed by Carnegie Hall, Zucker Hall, April 2006.
I was led by pure instinct, and supported by the work of two ethnomusicologists at the University of Arkansas. Wu Man introduced our community to the pipa, to collaboration, to contemporary China through an ancient artwork. I saw the piece both in Arkansas and New York. The Arkansas performance and audience put the New Yorkers to shame. The show was more beautiful at WAC, because of the technical production and our audiences, who were more invested because of the commission. Following Wu Man’s residency, our eyes were wide open to the path of contemporary work and the role of artist in society.
BLACK ORPHEUS, PILOBOLUS DANCE COMPANY, 2004
Lead Commission for new work by co-artistic director Alison Chace, Pilobolus Dance Company,
World Premiere, June 23, 2004, Joyce Theater, New York City
Midwest Premiere, September 24, 2004, Walton Arts Center
We had a group of Arkansas supporters – from donors to reporters – attend the premiere in New York City, including my 10-year old son, who was initiated to the beauty of the human body in dance through partially nude performers. I was a proud presenter but even more, a proud mother to be able to share the moment with him.
BLACK WOMEN RISING, KRONOS QUARTET, 2004
Co-commission for a new work by Kevin Volans.
World Premiere June 2004, Ravinia Festival Highland Park, Illinois
Arkansas Premiere, November 9, 2004, Walton Arts Center
I love that our first time to present Kronos included our commission – that’s how more art should be presented!