Laura Beth Vogel Chisels Out A Place for Public Art

There’s something immediately captivating about the sculptures in the Vogel Schwartz Sculpture Garden and along the Sculpture Promenade. Handcrafted from natural materials — bronze, wood, stone and glass — the 60 sculptures blend seamlessly into the environment, almost as if they sprang from the earth as naturally as the native grasses and trees. But at the same time, each piece is unexpected, a pleasant surprise around every turn.

Nestled in Riverfront Park just north of the Peabody Hotel, the Vogel Schwartz Sculpture Garden offers residents and visitors alike a serene riverside retreat amidst the bustle of the city and the Interstate beyond. Native flora — river birches, stately oaks and brightly colored cosmos flowers — and numerous contemplation benches fill the spaces between the sculptures that range in size from no bigger than a Carolina chickadee (“Three Birds”), to larger than life-size (“Infinity,” opposite page).

Beyond the garden, the Sculpture Promenade winds along the Arkansas River, past the River Market Pavilions and ends just east of the Marriott Hotel in the River Market.

The garden and promenade — collectively Sculpture at the River Market — is the culmination of an idea Dr. Dean Kumpuris envisioned for the city in 2007, says Laura Beth Vogel, a member of the Sculpture Young Professionals Advisory Board. “He wanted to make [Little Rock] a world-class destination for sculpture and public art,” Laura Beth says. He brought together a group of people [Jane Rogers, Ann Lewis, Dorsey and Lucy Jackson and John Kinkade, head of the National Sculptors’ Guild] that made that dream a reality.”

It’s no coincidence that Laura Beth shares her last name with that of the Sculpture Garden. A graduate of Central High and the University of Arkansas, Laura Beth is married to Robby Vogel, president of Golden Eagle of Arkansas. “My husband’s great-aunt and great-uncle, Rose Vogel Schwartz and Dan Schwartz, made it possible to create a foundation through which our family can give back to the community,” she says. “My father-in-law, Robert Vogel, and his brother, Sam Vogel, are the generous overseers of the Vogel Schwartz Foundation.” In 2009, the Vogel Schwartz Foundation donated funds to create the Vogel Schwartz Sculpture Garden.

Laura Beth says the Sculpture at the River Market committee has been raising money for the park since 2007, when the group hosted the first Sculpture at the River Market Show and Sale. The objective was the same then as it is now — to bring the best sculptors in the nation to Little Rock for a show and sale, with a portion of the proceeds benefiting future sculpture acquisitions for the city.

The event is kicked off each year with a preview party, during which artists from all over the nation bring their works for display and sale. This year’s Preview Party and Cocktail Buffet will begin at 6:30 p.m. on Friday, Oct. 19, at the River Market Pavilions. Elise Davis will provide live music, and guests will enjoy a cocktail buffet and have the opportunity to purchase sculptural works.

The annual Show and Sale, which is free and open to the public, will take place from 9 a.m.-5 p.m. on Saturday, Oct. 20, and from 10 a.m.-4 p.m. on Sunday, Oct. 21. More than 800 works by 44 nationally recognized artists will be on display.

New this year will be a young professionals afterparty. Called Bronze and Brewskis, the event begins at 8:30 p.m., following the preview party. Laura Beth says there will be sculpture for sale in a wide variety of styles and price points. “Our hope is to see some of the young professionals purchase their first sculpture during this event, eventually becoming enthusiasts and ambassadors of public art themselves,” she says.

Guests will enjoy beer and wine, blues by Velvet Kente, food from Copper Grill and “Sculpture Dogs” from Hot Dog Mike. “I hope that this event will inspire young adults in Little Rock to get involved in improving our city and its parks for future generations,” Laura Beth says. “This is just what Dr. Kumpuris has done for us, and I would like to see his legacy continued.”

Sculpture at the River Market Preview Party and Cocktail Buffet
6:30 p.m., Friday, Oct. 19   |   River Market Pavilions   |   $100 per person   

Bronze and Brewskis (a young professionals afterparty)
8:30 p.m., Friday, Oct. 19   |   River Market Pavilions   |   $20 per person in advance, $25 at the door

For more information about Sculpture at the River Market events, visit SculptureAtTheRiverMarket.com or call 664-1919.

What You Need to Know About Laura Beth

  • Her favorite sculpture is… a bronze thoroughbred called “Full of Himself,” by local artist Jan Woods.
  • She’s an entrepreneur. She practiced dental hygiene for 10 years, but recently put down her instruments to raise a family. She and her sister run a business called MOON Designs. “We sell personalized name badge reels and other small crafts (wine glass tags, cute magnets, etc.) to retailers. It started as just crafting and spending time together. Then we started selling a few items and eventually decided we should apply for a business license. We have now been in business for two years. It has been a great learning experience.”
  • She’s a new mother to 4-month-old son, Gus.
  • She might have some undiscovered talents. “My husband says I have a nice singing voice — something he has just recently heard, as I try to soothe a crying baby. I’m not expecting to book any gigs anytime soon though,” she jokes.

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