Get started on holiday magic with nutcracker exhibit
at Arts & Science Center
Holiday Magic: Nutcrackers from the Collection of Jim Williams is on display now through Jan. 8, 2011, at the Arts & Science Center for Southeast Arkansas in downtown Pine Bluff.
The exhibit is from the collection of Jim Williams, a retired lawyer from Pine Bluff. The exhibit includes more than 75 different nutcrackers representing famous Americans, biblical characters, characters from literature, artisans and craftspeople in different occupations and nutcrackers from around the world. The exhibit also includes, of course, nutcrackers from the Nutcracker Ballet.
Also on display through the holiday season are two more fun exhibits for families – the hands-on science exhibits, Science & Art and Newton’s Corner.
The nutcracker tradition began centuries ago in the alpine regions of Germany, says Howard Spencer, curator at the Center. In legend, the nutcracker possessed miraculous powers bringing good fortune and protection from evil spirits. The most famous nutcracker carvings come from Thuringia (also a center of dollmaking) and from the Ore Mountains. Wood-carving usually provided the only income for the people living there.
Carvings by famous names like Junghanel, Klaus Mertens, Karl, Olaf Kolbe, Petersen, Christian Ulbricht and especially the Steinbach nutcracker have become collectors' items. Christian Steinbach, also known as the “King of Nutcrackers,” has continued the more than 300-year-old family tradition of hand-carving nutcrackers. Nutcrackers vary greatly in price ranging from $100 to more than $1,000. To create one nutcracker can involve more than 100 separate procedures, and at one time, the curling and natural drying of the wood could take up to two to four years depending upon the piece.
Collecting nutcrackers is now as common in the United States as it is in Germany due in part to the popularity of the Nutcracker Ballet. It is also because many American military service personnel who were living in post-WWII occupied Germany and those who have been stationed on American military bases in Germany in the decades since have purchased nutcrackers. In so doing they helped to spread the nutcracker tradition from Germany to their families in America.
The center, located at 701 Main St. in Pine Bluff, is open 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Friday, 1-4 p.m. Saturday and closed on Sunday. Support for the center is provided in part by the Arkansas Arts Council, an agency of the Department of Arkansas Heritage, and the National Endowment for the Arts. For more information, contact the center at (870) 536-3375, email@example.com or visit the website at www.artssciencecenter.org.