South on MainLittle Rock, AR
The Oxford American is transforming its new buildings in Little Rock’s burgeoning South Main Street (SOMA) district into a home for diverse arts programming where people can experience the variety of culture that its award-winning magazine has documented since 1992. The space will include a restaurant that will present the full breadth and depth of southern culinary culture. Accompanying the food will be nightly cultural programming that will feature the best of Southern arts and culture across a variety of formats including literature, music, film, art, drama and food. The Oxford American will use its own connections and expertise to create national-caliber programs featuring famous and notable artistic personalities, but these high-level programs will be interspersed on a day-to-day basis with the community-oriented programming developed through partnerships with local organizations and institutions. The Oxford American will also outfit this space with recording (audio and video) equipment that will allow all of the programming to be live-streamed over the organization’s website as well as recorded for podcasts, videos and other presentations. As a result, the programming will be viewed and appreciated by people all over the world.
ArtPlace spoke with Warwick Sabin, the publisher of The Oxford American, about their project and how it will increase vibrancy in the place where it is happening.
ARTPLACE: What is your elevator pitch when you describe your project to people?
SABIN: Our project will change our community by directly integrating arts and culture into effective community-building and revitalization efforts. Specifically, it will create a brand-new major cultural institution that not only will help provide our local community with a space to engage in educational and creative endeavors, but will also help revitalize a community that has been making a considerable effort to become the artistic district of the capital city of Arkansas. By serving as a cultural hub of our city, we will be generating a significant amount of attention to one of the lesser-known communities in the South and will serve as a platform for the voices of the numerous under-served artists in the region.
ARTPLACE: How do you expect to increase vibrancy in the place you are working?
SABIN: The South Main Street (SOMA) district in Little Rock has been deliberately developing and positioning itself as a progressive arts and culture center for the city. The arrival of The Oxford American will accelerate (even turbo-boost) its movement in that direction, and the neighborhood has enthusiastically embraced The Oxford American’s arrival for that reason.
Much of the programming in our new space will be presented in partnership with local cultural organizations. This will not only activate further innovation and development within those institutions, but it should create an atmosphere for further collaboration and cross-pollination across the creative community in Central Arkansas.
Further vibrancy will be created through our existing partnership with NPR, which has expressed interest in broadcasting the programming from this space. We are also working with Arkansas public television to create a television program that would be recorded in our space and syndicated nationally via PBS. Besides the increased recognition that this will bring to The Oxford American and its partners, it will also create buzz about the cultural scene in Little Rock. This kind of buzz is not insignificant and can be an important contribution to cultural growth that The Oxford American can uniquely provide.
In short, The Oxford American will inspire creative growth in its community and put SOMA “on the map”, making it a true cultural destination that will attract not only local patrons, but also tourists and other visitors.