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Arts centered where?

Arts centered where?

February 26, 2015

Vol 41 • No 25

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Arts centered where?

Desire for a new building could uproot Little Rock's longtime cultural gem and send it across the river.

The free lunch legislature

Is it any wonder the Arkansas legislature thinks you can get something for nothing?

American Lions take round four

The Showcase continues Thursday, Feb. 26.

Could have been worse

'Hot Tub 2' scores some chuckles.

Bravo, Boulevard

New Heights' bistro and bar delights.

Home at last

Mourners stand over the casket of Corporal C.G. Bolden of Clinton during a Feb. 21 memorial service. Bolden was taken prisoner while fighting in Korea in January 1951 and died in a P.O.W. camp four months later. His remains were returned to the U.S. by the North Korean government in the 1990s, and were identified through DNA testing in December.

SB202: short-term loss, long-term gain

Many understandably believe the enactment of SB202 — the legislation that bars local governments from creating protected classes not presently recognized in state law — to be a significant step back for LGBT rights in Arkansas.

Walmart wage hike, by the numbers

Also, fluoride rides again, Hutchinson's plan for prisons, a puppy mill, a safe place for Craigslist transactions, LRSD legal battle and more.

Rutledge roots for dirty coal

Grandstanding is one of the unwritten constitutional functions of state attorneys general, but it always helps to know who is in the cheering section.

Miranda Lambert returns to Verizon

Also, 'To Light a Candle' at Robinson, 7 Bands 7 Bucks at Low Key Arts, The Tontons and Wild Mocassin at Stickyz, 'James and the Giant Peach' at Ron Robinson and Jonathan Richman at Juanita's.

Ten to add to the Encyclopedia of Arkansas

The encyclopedia is a favorite resource of the Arkansas Times, but a recent survey found some holes in its coverage.

American id

After satisfying myself that Sen. Cotton really did say what he said about miscreants rotting in A.) hell, or B). Guantanamo Prison (in other words, that you guys weren't just making this stuff up), I have to say that a part of me agrees 100 percent with him.That part is called the id. It's the part of us that demands immediate gratification, the only part of our consciousness present at birth, probably located in our brain stem.

The hart

It is hard for a straight person, The Observer included, to imagine what it would be like to be born gay — to be shipwrecked here on this space-going clod, where nearly every textbook, novel, film and television show, nearly every blaring screen or billboard or magazine ad, reinforces the idea that "normal" means "heterosexual."

Arkansas's new anti-gay law forgets history

It turns back the clock on civil rights.

Hogs play team ball

The dearth of team cohesiveness had killed Arkansas basketball in recent years. "Hawgball" more or less died because in-house friction led to on-court product that bore the evidence of dissent. Not to pick on any individual players, but you never sensed that in the last years of Nolan Richardson's regime or Stan Heath's or John Pelphrey's respective tenures that the players did the so-called "buy-in" or cared much about team unity.

Sold into an arranged marriage, woman finds salvation in Arkansas

Jennyfer Austin, the adopted, home-schooled child of an extremely conservative family tells the story of being sold into an arranged marriage. A detour to Harding University, where she fell in love with a man she'd eventually marry, saved her from the course her family had set.

Gay discrimination sponsors change message in face of backlash to bigotry

I don't know why reporters let Rep. Bob Ballinger get away with lying about his anti-gay HB 1228.

Legislators have smooth path to freebies today

Legislators have a clear path to the free hog troughs today. No snow or ice to worry about.

Guns-on-campus foe points to UALR prof shooting

The Campaign to Keep Guns Off Campus has issued a news release pointing to the recent double murder/suicide ascribed to UALR faculty member James Wibanks as an illustration of the potential for problems in legislation to allow staff members to carry guns on campus.

Girl scouts, edamame, Irish eats and chocolate rolls; mark your spring calendars

March is coming in like a lion — we've got a list of events that will make your inner foodie roar.

Delay in former Death Row inmate's retrial; judge fumes over evidence handling

The retrial of former Death Row inmate Tim Howard on murder charges was delayed Tuesday in Little River Circuit Court, with the presiding judge expressing continued exasperation about the prosecution's failure to provide all evidence relevant to the case.

Arkansas Supreme Court upholds class action in Marlboro Light case

The Arkansas Supreme Court today affirmed Circuit Judge Timothy Fox's certification of a class action status in the lawsuit alleging Philip Morris had deceived smokers with advertising for Marlboro Lights that suggested they were safer than regular cigarettes.

River Market Damgoode Pies limited opening on Sunday

Jeff Trine with Damgoode Pies says that their new River Market outlet at 500 President Clinton Ave. will do a "barely open type scenario" this Sunday starting at 11 a.m. to serve those running and spectating at the Little Rock Marathon.

Senate wants a spring break

Sen. Ron Caldwell introduced a resolution today calling for the Arkansas General Assembly to recess between March 20 and March 30 so the legislature won't be meeting while mandated public school spring break is in progress.

House committee approves roll-back of school consolidation law

The House Education Committee approved legislation today to blow a gaping hole in the hard-won standard to consolidate school districts with fewer than 350 students in the name of efficiency.

Bill aims to curb influence of judicial campaign contributions. Good luck with that.

State Rep. John Baine introduced legislation today to require judges to recuse from hearing civil cases "if as a result of a 28 substantial campaign contribution made to or on behalf of the justice or 29 judge in the immediately preceding election by a party who has a case pending 30 before that justice or judge:

Gun lobby rolls House Education Commmittee for guns on college campuses

Rep. Charlie Collins accepted a tepid amendment to his bill to require colleges to allow staff members to carry concealed weapons on campus and it promptly was endorsed by the committee.

Carman McBride is 2015 Arkansas Milken educator

Carman McBride, an environmental and spatial technology facilitator for grades 3-5 at Roberts Elementary in Little Rock, is this year's Arkansas winner of the Milken Educator award, a $25,000 prize.

Jon Woods has apparent way to restore tax money to chambers of commerce

The chambers of commerce apparently have their vehicle to restore tax subsidies put in jeopardy by Circuit Judge Mackie Pierce's ruling that the Arkansas Constitution forbids local tax money contributions to private corporations such as chambers of commerce.

Governor names new head of Assessment Coordination Department

Gov. Asa Hutchinson has named Benton County Assessor Bear Chaney as director of the Arkansas Assessment Coordination Department. It's the agency that makes sure property assessment procedures for purposes of assessing the property tax meet statutory and constitutional muster.

Meet Monday @ the corner

Kamiyah Merrick, who with business partner Leila King has been working since the first of December to get her cafe @ the corner open at the corner of Scott and Markham streets, says can't wait to offer "something new to downtown." Now, if the health inspector comes this week, you won't have to wait past Monday, Merrick said, when @ the corner opens in the space formerly occupied by the Hop Diner.

Extra Soul Perception: A Monk Higgins Mix

Because I couldn't find one anywhere else, here is a mix highlighting the best (or so) of the Arkansas funk legend Monk Higgins, born Milton Bland in Menifree in October of 1936. He worked as a social worker, a music teacher, and making his way to Chicago and later L.A., he arranged and produced records for labels like Chess, Onderful, St. Lawrence, MCA, United Artists and, eventually, his own label, Almon. He produced singles by Etta James, Muddy Waters, Bobby 'Blue' Bland (no relation) and hundreds of others, including several albums by Blood, Sweat and Tears. As a solo artist, he released records with titles like "Extra Soul Perception," "Little Mama," "Heavyweight" and "Dance to the Disco Sax of Monk Higgins."

Well-Off-Man on 'Van Gogh to Rothko'

One of the best reasons to go to "Van Gogh to Rothko," the Albright-Knox Art Gallery's traveling exhibition to Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art, is to see the Jackson Pollock drip painting there, curator Manuela Well-Off-Man says in an article about the exhibit in Apollo Magazine.

Open (firing) line: Legislator proposes return to firing squad. Also more in NLR coach dispute

Here's the open line, video roundup and an additional legislative item: Also: A legislator is talking about reinstituting firing squads for executions.

Hutchinson era good for GOP chair's family

Gov. Asa Hutchinson has now appointed the wife and sister-in-law of the state Republican Party chair to top jobs, the same week the party chair has been criticizing Hillary Clinton for conflicts of interest.

An idea for Library Director Bobby Roberts' retirement in 2016

Bobby Roberts, director of the Central Arkansas Library System, has announced his retirement next year and we have an idea to keep the dynamic 70-year-old occupied.

Freebie Friday a little slow for legislature

Only a single backroom lunch is on the legislative freebie schedule today. Dang. A lawmaker pay for his own drinks?

Another mass shooting: Nine reported dead in Missouri

CNN reports that nine people have been found dead at multiple sites in Missouri, eight of them including the suspect killed by gunshot wounds.

House committee takes aim at U.S. Constitution

The House Committee on State Agencies and Governmental Affairs, packed with conservative Republicans, approved measures today aimed at the federal government.

Enchiridion wins round 5 of the Arkansas Times Musicians Showcase

Congrats to Little Rock metal band Enchiridion, who closed out last night's round of the Arkansas Times Musicians Showcase with a powerful and punishing set, winning over the judges in the process. They'll join Open Fields, Ghost Bones, Becoming Elephants and American Lions at the showcase finals, which will be held next Friday, March 6, at Revolution, 9 p.m., $5.

Moody Brews debuts Katchiri's Bier Friday

Moody Brew's beer craftsman Josiah Moody recently went back to his old stomping grounds at Vino's Brew Pub, his former employer, and attempted to capture more of his magic in a keg as he'd done there previously for several year.

House approves cell phone locator bill over constitutional objection

The Arkansas House today approved Rep. Rebecca Petty's bill to require telephone companies to provide location information for wireless phones in response to a "call for emergency services or in an emergency situation that involves the risk of death or serious physical harm." The vote was 70-8.

Committee named to work on Little Rock school finances

Interim Little Rock School Superintendent Dexter Suggs and Baker Kurrus, the former Little Rock School Board member named by Education Commissioner Tony Wood to work on district finances announced today a committee to assist in the work.

Some plaintiffs set in suit over Pegasus pipeline break

Plaintiffs in Faulkner County lawsuits that are among many filed over the 2013 ExxonMobil Pegasus pipeline break that gushed heavy crude in Mayflower are making progress toward an October trial of several consolidated cases.

Little Rock VA office faulted for handling of claim files

The inspector general of the Veterans Affairs Department has completed an audit of the Little Rock Regional VA office that says date adjustments on claims made it appear the office was making more progress than it actually had in reducing a backlog of disability claims.

Maumelle police report on three deaths mentions financial tension, but finds no 'singular motive'

The Maumelle police today released their case file on the deaths last week of James, Tatiana and Elizabeth Wilbanks in what has been ruled a double murder/suicide by James Wilbanks, a UALR business faculty member. It offered no explanation for the shootings, but did turn up one source of family friction.

ASU plans hotel and conference center on campus

Arkansas State University said today it is negotiating with a private company to build a hotel and conference center on campus, a $35 to $45 million investment that would produce ground lease payments to ASU.

Attorney general okays release of former treasurer employee's records

A formal opinion from Attorney General Leslie Rutledge today says that most of former state treasurer employee Saw Swayze's records should be released as the office custodian of records intended to do.

Staff Picks: NASA documentaries, The Method Actors, Anthony Bourdain in the Ozarks and more

If I had been thinking, I would have recommended this on Valentine's Day, but isn't every day a good day to get emotional about space exploration, about marriage, about hurtling into the unknown? Take 15 minutes and watch this 2010 short documentary, "The Voyagers." Actually, this is like my entry into Arkansas Times Insists. I insist that you watch this.

Thank goodness. Friday.

Here's the week-ending open line and news roundup.

Baptist Health North Little Rock to pay $2.7 million for improper Medicare claims

Baptist Health Medical Center North Little Rock, Baptist Health, Medicare, Department of Health and Human Services.

The Beyond Despair Edition

The latest from the legislature, including Rep. Bob Ballinger’s gay discrimination bill stalling in committee, bills to repeal the state’s death penalty and rollback consolidation rules advancing and legislation aimed at curbing outside influence in judicial campaigns.

Little Rock City Board plans to alter public comment rule

The eternal debate on when and who may speak on what topics at Little Rock City Board meetings has sparked a proposed ordinance to tinker with the rules.

State opposes lifting of stay in same-sex marriage case

Attorney General Leslie Rutledge filed the state's response Friday to a request from plaintiffs that the Arkansas Supreme Court lift the stay of Judge Chris Piazza's ruling in the same-sex marriage case.

The wintry open line

Got anything? I see snow in Central Arkansas forecast for next Wednesday evening. Why not?

Media advice for the presidential race in 2016

New York Times columnist Frank Bruni has some useful advice for the media rather than candidates as the 2016 presidential race unfolds. I'll boil it down:

Sunday evening coming down — and an open line

Apart from the Little Rock Marathon, it's been a quiet, rainy Sunday. But maybe the open line will turn up something more exciting.

Blue Monday: Freebies light today for legislature

Blue Monday for legislators. The freebie list is sort. Buit not to worry. Free lunches will soon be back on the menu, Amendment 94 gift ban or not.

Fatter payday nears for state legislators; public hearing today on $23,531 pay raise

The independent citizens commission established by the Amendment to grant legislators, judges and state officers pay raises in way that legislators don't have to fade the political heat will have a public hearing today on its pay raise plans at 10 a.m. at the University of Arkansas System offices on North University Avenue.

Judge in Nebraska strikes down another same-sex marriage ban

A federal judge in Nebraska has struck down that state's same-sex marriage ban effective next Monday.

Hutchinson taps Johnny Key to lead Education Department

Multiple sources indicated to me over the weekend that Tony Wood would be departing as state Education Department director sometime this week. He'd earlier announced his plans to leave no later than about June. Former Sen. Johnny Key is expected to succeed him.

Artist claims scandal reference in Clinton portrait

Nine years after it was unveiled, the painting of former President Bill Clinton in the National Portrait Gallery is in the news because artist Nelson Shanks told a Philadelphia newspaper that a shadow in the portrait is meant as a reference to Monica Lewinsky. From Talking Points Memo:

Go to Cregeen's for the beer, stay for the food

Cregeen's Irish Pub in North Little Rock has the beer we like on tap, but it's the food that has us raving.

Rutledge to abide by 2013 limit on use of $21.5 million lawsuit win; so where will windfall go?

A lawsuit that produced a $21.5 million judgment for the state of Arkansas raises the question of where the money will go. It goes first to the attorney general's consumer protection division, but state law limits the amount that may be held there to $1 million. Then what?

Pay raises for politicians: Two justices complain they need even more

The independent citizens commission that sets pay for politicians under Amendment 94 held its public hearing on its plans this morning and drew scant response — with a notable exception of Supreme Court Justices Karen Baker and Jo Hart asking for even more money than the commission already plans to give them.

Clinton Foundation circulates a defense

Reporting on contributions to the Clinton Foundation — both in media and driven by Republican research operations targeting Hillary Clinton's expected presidential candidacy — has drawn a reply from a Clinton spokesman in the form of some talking points circulated among supporters.

New video from Lo Thraxx, 'City Slickin / Corner'

Here's a new, two-part music video from Little Rock's Lo Thraxx, for his songs "City Slickin'" and "Corner." His forthcoming record, the long-awaited "Sharkansas," is set to be released on March 13.

Tysons give $5 million for UA agriculture research

The Tyson family and Tyson Foods have made a $5 million gift to toward the Don Tyson Center for Agricultural Sciences, a $16.3 million project of the University of Arkansas System Division of Agriculture.

Mike Wilson again raises alarm over pork spending

Mike Wilson, a Jacksonville lawyer and former legislator who filed a lawsuit that won an Arkansas Supreme Court decision curtailing illegal pork barrel spending by the legislature, is on the warpath again because the legislature is up to its old tricks.

Ryan James, Bruce Westerman's chief of staff, departs

K. Ryan James, who went to Washington with freshman 4th District U.S. Rep. Bruce Westerman in January as his chief of staff, is heading home.

Mark Pryor heads in the direction of the lobby

Venable LLP, one of the big Washington political consulting firms, announced today that former U.S. Sen. Mark Pryor had joined the firm.

Drug company gives UAMS $10 million

A pharmaceutical company that manufactures drugs to treat myeloma has donated a total of $10 million to the Myeloma Institute at the University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences, UAMS announced today at a press conference attended by several UAMS administrators and Gov. Asa Hutchinson.

House approves bill to force guns on college campuses

Rep. Charlie Collins' bill to force Arkansas colleges and universities to allow staff members to carry concealed weapons on campus passed the House today 66-25.

Health care task force members named

House and Senate leaders named members of the task force to study future health care coverage in Arkansas after 2017, when Gov. Asa Hutchinson said he plans to end participation in the private option version of Obamacare's Medicaid expansion.

State urges judge to keep marriage ban in place until appeal decided

The state responded late Monday to federal Judge Kristene Baker's request for arguments on whether she should keep in place her stay of the order invalidating the state ban on same-sex marriage.

Monday night line is open

Here's the open line and today's video roundup.

V.L. Cox's "River Bridge" coming to South on Main

Come snow or whatever, V.L. Cox will unveil her monumental painting "River Bridge" at South on Main on Thursday. The event runs 5 p.m. to 8 p.m. at the happening restaurant at 1304 Main St.

Soup's on. Drinks, too. Free for legislators. You pay.

Back to normal. Free drinks and eats aplenty are on top for Arkansas legislators today.

State asks Judge Griffen to step down from Little Rock school lawsuit

Attorneys for the state Education Department and the state Board of Education late Monday filed a letter in Pulaski Circuit Court asking Judge Wendell Griffen to not hear the case. The letter said it would file a formal motion if the judge required it.

University of Arkansas education reformers receive grand prize for 'bunkum' in charter school reports

The National Education Policy Center, a Colorado-based institution that is frequently opposed to the so-called "reform" movement embodied by the Walton-financed Department of Education Reform at the University of Arkansas, has issued its 2014 Bunkum Awards, which include a grand prize to the University of Arkansas for what it believes to be flawed research.

Antonin Scalia: 'Originalist' when it suits

Ernest Dumas, inspired by Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia's recent appearance in Fort Smith, analyzes the justices penchant for contradicting his deeply held notions when it suits, but not when it doesn't. Take Obamacare and same-sex marriage.

Arkansas Repertory Theatre announces 2015-2016 season

The Arkansas Repertory Theatre announced the lineup for its 40th anniversary season yesterday afternoon, which runs the gamut from Shakespeare and Tony Award winners to Disney movie adaptations. "Our 40th Season reflects all that we do best and defines who we are as a theatre company," Aristic Director Bob Hupp said in the press release. "The new season is an eclectic body of work: from a world premiere to renowned new plays and musicals, to family entertainment and Shakespeare. The 40th Sesason embodies our past, our present and our future. It is a celebration of great stories that capture the imagination and lift our spirits."

A Q&A with Levi Agee, creator of 'Too Long; Didn't Read'

Inspired by the comedy-plus-current-events format of "The Daily Show" and SNL's "Weekend Update," Too Long; Didn't Read is a new monthly show to be held every first Thursday at The Joint, in Argenta, featuring a panel of comedians (most of whom are regular participants in the venue's Tuesday night "Hogging the Mic" stand-up series) riffing and opining on "everything from celebrity gossip, hyper-local news and Internet memes to global economic policy.”

Springtime for the legislature: No 'girls gone wild' time

Word is trickling out that the proposal to declare a spring break for the legislature March 23-27 to match that given public school students lacks sufficient support for adoption.

State has solid surplus after first eight months of fiscal year

Gross tax revenues fell in February, but the state remains well ahead of forecast for the first eight months of the fiscal year.

Oxford American unveils Spring 2015 issue

The Little Rock-based Oxford American magazine has released the cover and details of its Spring 2015 issue, which will be on newsstands March 15. The issue features Hal Crowther, Jamie Quatro, Ron Rash, Little Rock writer Jay Jennings and Jeremy B. Jones, whose great piece on an ancestor's bizarre coded diary is online as of this morning. The issue also features a profile of documentary filmmaker Ross McElwee (by novelist William Giraldi), fiction by John McManus and a pretty stunning, ~12,000 word feature in which writer Justin Nobel tracks the path of a tornado outbreak that hit the South in April 2011

Jermain Taylor released pending trial

KTHV reports that boxer Jermain Taylor, facing a couple of firearms-related charges, has been released from custody to a recovery center pending trial, with a requriement that he wear electronic monitoring and the judge receive reports on his behavior.

More anti-abortion legislation clears House committee

The House Public Health Committee gave voice vote approval to a bill by Rep. Charlotte Fite to tighten rules on use of abortion-inducing drugs.

Making a better burger at The Root Cafe

Is it the beef? Is it the skill? Whatever it is, The Root's hamburgers are top of the line.

U.S. Supreme Court to take case on state Internet tax law

The U.S. Supreme Court will hear a case over a Colorado Internet tax law. That law is about reporting requirements. But the really interesting thing was a comment by Justice Anthony Kennedy, often a swing vote in big cases. He questioned the federal court precedent that bans states from collecting taxes from companies that don't have a physical presence in a state.

End Hate, Pt. 1 tonight at Arts Center

Tales from the South, the live radio program featuring Arkansans telling true stories, is dedicated tonight and tomorrow night to the people the Arkansas Legislature has officially proclaimed 2nd class citizens. "End Hate; True Stories Told by the LGBT Southerners Who Lived Them" is sold out both tonight, when it will be held at the Arkansas Arts Center (arrive between 6 p.m. and 7 p.m.), and tomorrow night at the Oyster Bar, but it's possible someone won't show up and you can squeak in.

Update: Shooting in suspected burglary

Little Rock police says a homeowner arrived at 6707 Wakefield about 12:45 p.m. today and shot a burglar.

Griffen asks for formal recusal motion in Little Rock school case

Judge Wendell Griffen has responded to a request that he get off the Little Rock School District takeover lawsuit by asking for a formal motion on the issue and then setting time for other parties in the case to respond.

Mary Steenburgen adds voice against gay discrimination law

Mary Steenburgen, the Arkansas native actress, has added her voice to those opposing HB 1228, the bill aimed at preserving legal discrimination against gay people under the pretext of religious freedom. It would create untold other complications for all sorts of government activities to give people a religious excuse to avoid the law.

Home intrusion gun battle leaves none hurt

Little Rock police say a gun battle followed an armed intrusion into an apartment at 11706 Pleasant Ridge Road about 10:40 p.m. Monday night, but no reported injuries. Stray bullets hit one vehicle.

An open line, with news: Homeland Security budget approved; Ferguson police bias cited; Hillary Clinton's email may have broken no rules; trouble in Searcy

An open line, plus a national news roundup on the Homeland Security budget vote, a report on Ferguson police racial bias, and a closer look at the "expose" on Secretary of State Hillary Clinton's e-mail.

In the legislative school trenches

School legislation today includes a measure to segregate Pulaski County neighborhoods; advancement of an issue to give regular school districts the same freedom given charter schools, and a bill to require transparency of outside contractors who get involved in districts taken over by the state.

Martin, Miers, Smith and Williams invite you to their studios

The Friends of Contemporary Craft are sponsoring a tour of the studios of mixed-media printmaker Delita Martin, furniture-maker Shep Miers, ceramicists David Smith and Paula Smith and fused glass artist Donnell Williams from 1 p.m. to 4 p.m. Saturday, March 7.

George Wallace move over: Alabama Supreme Court tells federal judges to stuff it

Extraordinary times. With only one dissent, the Alabama Supreme Court in a highly irregular proceeding has issued a 150-page order directing Alabama court officials not to issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples, no matter what a federal court has ruled.

Allow concealed guns just about everywhere, Jonesboro legislator proposes

AP's Andrew DeMillo talks with Rep. Dan Sullivan about his bill to drastically expand places where concealed carry permit holders can take their weapons — including bars, school grounds, the state Supreme Court's headquarters and the Capitol. Bring 'em on.

On the cover: A legislator's adoption and 'rehoming'

This week's cover story is an important one by Benjamin Hardy about an adoption practice of "rehoming" that has become controversial nationwide and the harm that befell a child who'd been placed in another's care after being adopted by a state legislator.

Short films from the creators of 'Beasts of the Southern Wild', more at Arkansas Times Film Series

Mark your calendar: Next up for the monthly Arkansas Times Film Series on Friday, March 20 at Ron Robinson Theater: A special presentation of short films and music videos from Academy Award-nominated filmmaker Benh Zeitlen and others from Court 13, the film and arts collective that Zeitlen co-founded in college and is now based in New Orleans.

Raborn reflects on Italy, at Boswell Mourot DATE CHANGE

It's a quick show, so don't put it off: "An Italy Experience: Reflections on the Past and Present," figurative work by Laura Raborn, is at Boswell Mourot Fine Art Feb. 28 through March 5. March 21-April 2.