Center director emphasizes importance of arts

Lenore Shoults, executive director of the Arts & Science Center for Southeast Arkansas, described the central role played by the arts in the development of young minds and the expansion of older ones at the Pine Bluff Rotary Club meeting Tuesday afternoon.

“The arts have a serious economic effect,” Shoults said. “The dramatic growth of Apple since it started in 1980 is due in large part to the emphasis placed by the company on developing products that are visually different from their competitors. Think about when the first Apple computers came out and how different they looked from the other computers on the market. Think about the first time that you held an iPod or an iPhone and how different they felt compared to a Walkman or a flip phone.”

Shoults emphasized that society is at its best when its citizens think across individual subjects and incorporate art into design or form into function as Apple has done.

“There has been a sea change in technology as it relates to the arts and sciences,” Shoults said.

Shoults said that the Arts & Science Center is rolling out programs to engage the local community in these disciplines.

“Arts is one of the first programs to be cut in a bad economy but art teaches so many lessons to young people that they can apply to their lives,” Shoults said. “Art requires persistence and patience and teaches accountability, creative problem-solving, confidence among others. All of this will teach children the skills needed to be our future leaders.”

Shoults said this year’s summer musical will be based on Oliver by Charles Dickens.

“Why are we having a play based on a book from the 1830s?” Shoults asked rhetorically. “Even though it was written so long ago, its themes of homelessness, child abuse and gangs still plague us today. We will be hosting a seminar based on the production that will allow participants to delve deeper into these topics.”

Shoults said the center welcomes school field trips and people on family outings.

“Our Tinkering Studio allows students to work with projects that incorporate science, technology, engineering and math,” Shoults said. “Children are able to come up with their own creations and to think with their hands. It is open each Saturday from 1 p.m. to 4 p.m.”

Shoults said that center has created an exhibition space visible to passersby on Main Street called Divas to Dragons.

“We are featuring creations from UAPB fashion design students as well as the mechanical dragon that will star in our production of The Hobbit in April,” Shoults said. “We developed this experimental exhibition space to enhance the cityscape and to feature local creative work.”

Shoults said The Hobbit will be performed at 7 p.m. April 26 and 27 and at 2 p.m. April 28. Ticket prices will be $5 for students and between $13 and $17 for adults.