By KD REEP | Photography by SARAH ODEN
The eternal cycle of destruction and rebirth is an apt one for the Mosaic Templars Cultural Center. As the museum reflects on the storied history, it is with reverence as the only black history institution in the state and of its kind in the south. Director Quantia “Key” Fletcher recognizes that with the 140 years in America and 15 years in the state comes a responsibility to share this collective history with all Arkansans. The extraordinary class of Trailblazers – a group of outstanding individuals – will be presented at the anniversary luncheon in December.
Quantia remembers when plans to restore the original 1913 grand temple were incinerated during a fire in 2005. The museum, which is in the exact location of the original temple, was reimagined as a state-of-the-art museum complex complete with exhibits, a classroom, administrative offices and an auditorium. “Our mission is to preserve, interpret and celebrate African American history and culture in Arkansas,” Key notes. “Here, you can learn about African America fraternal organizations and entrepreneurs as well as integration. But this museum isn’t just the story of African American Arkansans, it’s the story of how our history is woven into the tapestry of our nation’s narrative.”
As an anchor to Little Rock’s famed 9th Street Corridor, Mosaic Templars Cultural Center will celebrate its legacy of service with plans for a series of educational and innovative exhibits that illustrate the organization’s continued mission fulfillment work. “Earlier this year, we began by commemorating the 140th anniversary of the incorporation of Mosaic Templars of America, and we want to continue through the next year with a series of exhibits in our changing gallery,” Quantia notes the first will open later this month and features pieces that highlight Arkansas African American history. “The work of Rex Deloney – who is our African American Arkansas Artist of the Year as well as an art instructor at Little Rock Central High School – symbolizes the hopes, dreams and struggles of the African American culture.” Next year’s exhibits continue in partnership with Arkansas Arts Council, Shiloh Museum of Ozark History and the El Dorado Arts Center.
The Trailblazers will feature a group of Arkansans who continue the African American narrative in Arkansas. Nominations are being accepted through October 11. “This initiative will show how we share, who we are and highlight some of the new, young, fresh ideas in terms of our state’s African American culture, community, art, politics and entrepreneurship.” Quantia realizes these individuals represent a bright, more equitable future for all Arkansans. “Trailblazers are the ones fulfilling the mission of the museum, who are preserving, interpreting and celebrating Arkansas African American history and culture. We want to celebrate, honor and partner with these people.”
Quantia realizes this as an exciting time for Mosaic Templars Cultural Center. “This is all part of how we continue to tell the story of African Americans in Arkansas.” A century of service will be reflected in the new exhibits as well as a new era for the organization. “It’s continuing to tell different aspects of the narrative of African Americans, not just stopping at one place but constantly digging into different areas and sharing more of the story. The goal of the museum is not to just be statewide. We’re a world-class, nationally accredited museum and we must take our history and share the resiliency of our community and our people across the country. I want everybody to see how amazing Arkansas and our history are.”