Arkansas Arts Center celebrates year of community support, accomplishments at 2018 Annual Meeting

Author: Arkansas Arts CenterFiled under: Collection, Community, Education, Events, Exhibitions, Faculty & Staff, General, Museum, Museum School, Programs

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The Arkansas Arts Center finished its eighth consecutive year operating in the black on June 30, interim executive director Laine Harber announced August 20. It was a year marked by community support and significant achievements, including the reveal of concept designs for a reimagined Arkansas Arts Center and a landmark exhibition of John Marin works nearly four years in the making.

“Over the past year, the Arkansas Arts Center staff has worked diligently to engage our communities and realize our goals.” Harber said. “We’re incredibly proud of our accomplishments over the past year.”

At the Annual Meeting, Harber announced a generous gift in support of the Arkansas Arts Center. The Windgate Charitable Foundation will endow two curatorial positions at the Arts Center: the Windgate Curator of Contemporary Craft, to be held by Brian J. Lang, and the Jackye and Curtis Finch, Jr. Curator of Drawings, to be held by Ann Prentice Wagner, Ph.D.

In February, the Arkansas Arts Center, Studio Gang Architects and SCAPE Landscape Architects presented a striking new concept design for the Arts Center. The design will strengthen the connections between the visual and performing arts in an inclusive space that welcomes a diverse community.

A successful POP! Beaux Arts Ball honored those who have played an integral role in the Arts Center’s past and continued success. The 2018 POP! Portrait of a Patron Awards recognized Jane McGehee Wilson for her service, the Fine Arts Club of Arkansas for its philanthropy, and Townsend Wolfe for his lifetime of service on behalf of the Arkansas Arts Center.

A $350,000 grant from The Henry Luce Foundation helped the Arts Center to realize Becoming John Marin: Modernist at Workalong with its accompanying catalog and narrative website. Becoming John Marin, on view January 26 through April 22, included never-before-exhibited drawings and watercolors from the Arkansas Arts Center Collection exploring the artist’s transformation from intuitive draftsman to innovative watercolorist and etcher. Organized by the Arkansas Arts Center, Becoming John Marin featured 79 works from the Arts Center’s exceptional collection of Marin drawings, donated to the Arts Center by the artist’s daughter-in-law, Norma Marin, in 2013, and conserved with support from The Henry Luce Foundation, Luce Fund in American Art. They were shown alongside 33 distinguished Marin works loaned by outstanding public and private collections, including Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art, the National Gallery of Art, the Philadelphia Museum of Art, the Columbus Museum of Art, the Metropolitan Museum of Art, the Colby College Museum of Art, and the Phillips Collection, among others.

The Henry Luce Foundation also supported the development of a narrative website, The website features analysis of Marin’s favorite subjects, from New York’s Woolworth Building to Small Point, Maine, guides viewers through Marin’s life and work, and explores some of the artist’s favorite subjects – places he depicted time and time again – with a focus on how his work evolved throughout his career. The Arts Center also launched its first beacon program to complement the exhibition, bringing interactive technology into the galleries, allowing visitors to build deeper connections with the art.

A $50,000 Art Works grant from the National Endowment for the Arts, announced earlier this year, will support continued conservation of the Arts Center’s collection of John Marin works. The Art Works category is the NEA’s largest funding category and supports projects that focus on the creation of art that meets the highest standards of excellence, public engagement with diverse and excellent art, lifelong learning in the arts, and/or the strengthening of communities through the arts.

The Arkansas Arts Center was one of 80 institutions across the country selected to participate in the Collections Assessment for Preservation (CAP) program. CAP helps museums improve the care of their collections by providing support for a conservation assessment of the museum’s collections and buildings. The museum will work with a team of preservation professionals to identify preventive conservation priorities. The final assessment report will help the museum prioritize its collections care efforts in the coming years.

The Arkansas Arts Center also partnered with ACANSA Arts Festival to present Will Counts: The Central High School Photographs, on view August 8 through October 22, 2017, marking the 60th anniversary of the historic integration of Little Rock Central High School in 1957. The exhibition featured 38 prints from the black and white negatives local press photographer Will Counts (1931 – 2001) made of the integration of Central High in 1957, 1958 and 1959. Counts donated the prints to the Arkansas Arts Center in 1997. To provide historical context, the Arts Center also produced an interactive timeline detailing the integration process in Little Rock, beginning with the Supreme Court decision in Brown v. Board of Education. The timeline was accessible to visitors in the gallery.

Little Rock Mayor Mark Stodola recognized outgoing trustees Albert Braunfisch, Mike Maulden and Mimi San Pedro, as well as outgoing ex-officio trustees Catherine Robben for the Contemporaries, Emily Mitchell and Lisa Nichols for the Fine Arts Club, and Paul Bash for the docents. Stodola also recognized incoming trustees Stan Hastings, LaRand Thomas and Paul Parnell, reappointed trustees Merritt Dyke, Gordon Silaski, Pat Wilson and Isabel Anthony and incoming ex-officio trustees, Jessie McLarty for the Contemporaries and Susan Day for the docents.

Chief Curator Brian Lang highlighted the acquisition of 209 works of art, including 22 purchases and 187 donations of art. The acquisitions list included a diverse selection works from the Russian avant-garde artist Alexander Archipenko, contemporary Jamaican artist Ebony G. Patterson, American painter John Singer Sargent, craft artists Iguchi Daisuke, Betty Scarpino and Marjorie Schick, as well as European masters Rembrandt van Rijn and Eugene Delacroix.

Works from the Arkansas Arts Center Foundation Collection traveled a total of 10,714 miles to be loaned to museums across the country, including the Renwick Gallery of the Smithsonian American Art Museum in Washington, D.C., Houston Center for Contemporary Craft in Houston, Texas, the Berkeley Art Museum and Pacific Film Archive at the University of California in Berkeley, California, the Center for Art in Wood in Philadelphia, Penn., and the Windgate Center for Art and Design in Little Rock, Ark.

Harber also took a moment to recognize outgoing Executive Director Todd Herman, who served as director from 2011 – 2018.

Over the past year, the Arkansas Arts Center hosted 79 lectures, gallery talks, film screenings and hands-on art-making activities were held at the Arts Center. 300 volunteers donated their time to make programming possible, the Arts Center boasted 3,346 member households and welcomed 185,479 visitors from 45 states.

Statewide ArtsReach programs visited 63 communities in 40 Arkansas counties. Children’s Theatre on Tour performed 100 shows at 62 venues, and those productions were enjoyed by 36,863 people. The Artmobile traveled 3,610 miles across the state, serving 16,098 visitors. In addition, the Young Arkansas Artists exhibition at the Clinton National Airport reached more than 1,026,252 travelers.

In the Children’s Theatre, 147 performances were held for 40,710 children and families, including 80 school shows for 213 schools across the state. The Children’s Theatre also offered programs for 206 students.

In the Museum School, 273 visual art classes and workshops were offered for 2,330 adult students, as well as 56 youth classes and special programs for 529 youth students, including 114 attendees of the popular annual Junior Arts Academy, now in its 22nd year.

Harber previewed the upcoming exhibitions slated for 2018 and 2019. The exhibition calendar begins with Independent Vision: Modern and Contemporary from the Martin Muller Collection, on display September 28 through December 30, 2018. Independent Vision, organized by the Arkansas Arts Center, will feature works from the private collection of gallerist and collector Martin Muller.

Robert Baines: Living Treasure and Fabulous Follies remains on view through October 7, 2018. A leading scholar in the field of archaeometallurgy, Baines has studied and revived Bronze Age goldsmith techniques in service of international jewelry scholarship. His study of the ancient techniques also has informed his artistic practice for more than 40 years. In Living Treasure and Fabulous Follies, Baines assembles a fictitious jewelry narrative, captivating not only in the creativity and craftsmanship evident in the works, but also in the artist’s fascination with the enigma of jewelry as material evidence of authentic history.

Harber also previewed Photographing Frida: Portraits of Frida Kahlo/Fotografiando Frida: Retratos de Frida Kahlo and Andy Warhol’s Little Red Book, both on view February 1 through April 14, 2019. Photographing Frida/Fotografiando Frida, organized by the Arkansas Arts Center in collaboration with Throckmorton Fine Art, New York, New York, will be the first exhibition about Kahlo to appear at the Arkansas Arts Center.

The 61st Annual Delta Exhibition, the Arkansas Arts Center’s annual exhibition of juried work from the Mississippi Delta-region, will be on view May 31 through September 1, 2019. The exhibition highlights innovative contemporary art from the Arkansas and its border states.

The 2018–2019 Children’s Theatre season features six Main Stage shows: Curious George: The Golden Meatball (September 21 – October 7, 2018); Hansel and Gretel’s Gingerbread Games (October 26 – November 11, 2018); Jack Frost in Santa Land (November 30 – December 16, 2018); This Little Piggy Went to Market (February 1 – February 17, 2019); Charlotte’s Web (March 8 – March 31, 2019) and The Hobbit (April 26 – May 12, 2019).

Harber announced the upcoming Tabriz – the last to be held before groundbreaking for the reimagined Arkansas Arts Center – is slated for April 25 and 27, 2019 at the Arkansas Arts Center.

Ann Prentice Wagner, Ph.D.

Harber presented the Arkansas Arts Center “Employee of the Year” award to Curator of Drawings Ann Prentice Wagner, Ph.D. Since joining the Arkansas Arts Center in 2012, Wagner has organized numerous exhibitions, contributed to the collection and advocated for the Arts Center among the museum community. Wagner’s diligent scholarship on the life and work of John Marin made Becoming John Marin possible, bringing the work of this fascinating artist to life for Arts Center visitors.

“Ann’s exceptional scholarship made Becoming John Marin – the exhibition, catalog and website – possible, and her diligence and commitment to the art in our collection is unparalleled,” Lang said. “Ann is very deserving of this honor.”

Harber presented the “Winthrop Rockefeller Memorial Award” to Shep Russell. The award, presented each year, honors those who serve and support the arts and the Arkansas Arts Center above and beyond the normal call of duty, as demonstrated by the late Winthrop Rockefeller, for whom the award is named. The awardees are selected by a committee of past recipients, who are – by definition – the experts in public service through the arts.

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Arkansas Arts Center presents an Independent Vision

Author: Arkansas Arts CenterFiled under: Exhibitions, Museum

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Independent Vision: Modern and Contemporary Art from the Martin Muller Collection on view Sept. 28 – Dec. 30, 2018

Martin Muller with 4 Legs by Charles Arnoldi, 2011. Photo by Philip Cohen. Image courtesy of Modernism Inc., San Francisco.

The Arkansas Arts Center presents the striking vision of a master collector in Independent Vision: Modern and Contemporary Art from the Martin Muller Collection, on view September 28 through December 30, 2018.

Joel Besmar, Cuban (Camagüey, Cuba, 1968 – ), Descensus (The Descent), 2013, oil on canvas, 78 5/8 x 57 1/2 inches. Image courtesy of Modernism Inc., San Francisco.

San Francisco-based gallerist and collector Martin Muller curated the exhibition from his personal collection as a tribute to Little Rock – the city where he spent his formative early years in America. During those years, Muller discovered an affinity for post-war American painting in the quiet library of the Arkansas Arts Center. It was the beginning of a lifelong, relentless pursuit of new artistic treasures.

“This was the beginning of a rich, colorful, challenging and rewarding journey, started in Little Rock, where I made many lifelong friends,” Muller said.

Independent Vision: Modern and Contemporary Art from the Martin Muller Collection features 89 works from Muller’s personal collection representing his journey through contemporary art. The works in the exhibition represent a range of artistic expression, from American photographers Diane Arbus and Robert Mapplethorpe, modernist masters Pablo Picasso and Henri Matisse, pioneers of the Russian avant-garde Kazimir Malevich, Alexander Bogomazov, and El Lissitzky and pop artists Andy Warhol, Mel Ramos and Edward Ruscha. The show also includes a diverse array of contemporary works by artists such as Joel Besmar, Damian Elwes and Jean-Charles Blais.

“The thing that brings all these works together is their superlative quality,” said Brian Lang, Chief Curator and Curator of Contemporary Craft. “They are exceptional examples of their type.”

Independent Vision draws from Muller’s personal collection – and represents 77 artists he has championed throughout his career. Together, these works form a picture of Muller the collector, on a life-long journey for enlightenment through art and literature.

Born in Switzerland, Muller moved to Little Rock in 1975 to take a job with a Swiss-American company based in Little Rock.

Charles-Édouard Jeanneret, called Le Corbusier, Swiss/French (La Chaux-de-Fonds, Switzerland, 1887 – 1965, Roquebrune-Cap-Martin, France), Coeur sur la main, 1948, collage and gouache on paper, 19 1/8 x 14 1/2 inches. Image courtesy of Modernism Inc., San Francisco.

Muller was an avid student of 19th and 20th century Russian literature and art – but developed a fascination with post-war American painting – Abstract Expressionism, Pop Art and Minimalism. While living in Little Rock, he pursued his studies in the Elizabeth P. Taylor Library of the Arkansas Arts Center. In 1977, having decided to pursue his passion for art professionally, Muller moved west and opened Modernism, Inc. in San Francisco’s warehouse district South of Market.

“During my trip cross country, I marveled at discovering masterpieces of modern American art, from Edward Hopper to Barnett Newman, Mark Rothko, Jackson Pollock, and later, the Pop and Minimalist artists, especially Donald Judd,” Muller said. “Now, some 40 years later, it gives me great joy to have come full circle back to Little Rock and be able to share at the Arkansas Arts Center some of the wonderful artworks gathered along the way.”

Founded in 1979, Modernism has since presented more than 450 exhibitions, both historical and contemporary, in media ranging from painting to photography, sculpture to performance, by an international roster of artists. Throughout its 39 years, Muller has aspired to keep the gallery’s challenging, museum quality program at the forefront of the art world, with exhibitions encompassing Dada, Cubism, Surrealism, Vorticism and German Expressionism. Muller was also an early promoter and champion of the artists of the Russian Avant-Garde (1910–1930) in the United States. The gallery has held a long list of exhibition “firsts” – in 1980, Modernism held the first exhibition of the Russian Avant-Garde in a West Coast gallery, the first Andy Warhol show in San Francisco in 1982, and in 2003, the first Le Corbusier gallery show in the United States.

“This exhibition celebrates the individual collecting vision in all of us,” Lang said. “We can all see ourselves in the variety of works Martin has chosen to collect.”

Independent Vision: Modern and Contemporary Art from the Martin Muller Collection was organized by the Arkansas Arts Center and Modernism Inc., San Francisco. Independent Vision is sponsored by Brenda Mize, Jane McGehee Wilson and Stifel.

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Executive Director Todd Herman to Depart Arkansas Arts Center

Author: Arkansas Arts CenterFiled under: Faculty & Staff

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The Board of Trustees of the Arkansas Arts Center announced Thursday that Executive Director Todd  Herman will leave the center, effective August 10, 2018, to accept a position as President and CEO of The Mint Museum in Charlotte, N.C. The Board of Trustees is conducting a search for a successor to direct the AAC’s transitional goals of growth and expansion. Laine Harber, Deputy Director and CFO, will act as interim Director until the position is filled.

“We regret that Todd is departing, but know that our priorities for the Arkansas Arts Center remain unchanged,” said Merritt Dyke, President of the Board of Trustees of the Arkansas Arts Center. “We are encouraged by the positive response and participation from the community regarding our capital campaign, co-chaired by Harriet and Warren Stephens. Everyone in the organization is focused on making the AAC an unparalleled cultural destination for the citizens of central Arkansas and beyond.”

Herman came to the Arkansas Arts Center as Executive Director in 2011, and led one of Little Rock’s premier cultural institutions through a period marked by growth, expansion and financial stability. During his tenure, the Arkansas Arts Center saw seven consecutive years of balanced budgets and increased endowment funding. Herman oversaw the campaign to launch the transformation of the Arkansas Arts Center’s building in MacArthur Park. He also brought nationally recognized exhibitions to the Arts Center, developed a five-year strategic plan focused on civic involvement, arts education and cultural significance, and directed the organization through reaccreditation from the American Alliance of Museums.

“It is with a heavy heart that I am announcing that I will be leaving the Arkansas Arts Center,” Herman said. “We accomplished a lot in the past seven years with the help of dedicated and talented staff, board, foundation and donors, and the commitment of both the City of Little Rock and our loyal members. As you know, you can’t always plan when opportunities will find you. The opportunity to lead an institution and to be in close proximity to family was likely an opportunity I will never have again. The Arts Center is in very good hands, with one of the finest staffs I have ever had the pleasure to work with. I am honored to have been a part of the history of this fine institution and of this community.”

“We thank Todd for his contributions to the AAC and his help launching this exciting transformation,” Dyke said. “We wish him the best in his new endeavor and look forward to working with Laine through this transition.”

The Board of Trustees and the Foundation Board will continue to implement the strategic plan developed in 2016. The Arkansas Arts Center redesign is underway with the new museum scheduled to open in 2022.

Featured image courtesy of Little Rock Soiree magazine.

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Voices of the Delta: Dusty Mitchell

Author: Arkansas Arts CenterFiled under: Delta 60, Delta Exhibition, Exhibitions, Museum, Voices of the Delta


Dusty Mitchell, Pressure, 2017, digital scales, 1 x 192 x 120 inches

I make work out of ordinary things that have been manufactured to perform specific functions in our society. People have a relationship with the materials I use prior to seeing my work, therefore they immediately identify with the materials when they do. My intention is to manipulate this pre-existing relationship by presenting familiar objects and images in unfamiliar ways.  I prompt viewers to reconsider the role of the objects I use by extracting the conceptual value out of the ordinary. The work is accessible. You are allowed in. You are invited in. It’s not intended to keep you at a safe distance or impress you with some undefined mysterious vagueness. It’s intended to be accepted (or not) for what it is. I’ve been accused of being “clever”, and the work has been labeled as “novelty” at times, which I have no quarrel with. However you choose to label it, count me in. Mark me down for a thumbs up. This is the way I think and the language I speak. I see the work as smart, relevant, right on time, and appropriately sarcastic for our current cultural climate. You may not see it that way.

IMPORTANT TO ME: Ideas, Materials, Craftsmanship, Presentation, Relevance, Relatability, Impact

NOT IMPORTANT TO ME:  Whether or not “you could have made it,” Pretending I know things you don’t, Impressing people with my (non-existent) natural ability to draw or paint, Buyability (made-up word)

The work is excessively deliberate. I don’t have OCD, but I do think about art in a mathematical way. My ideas are strategic, not spontaneous. I am not a person that has whimsical, fleeting inspirations for beautiful artworks that contain evidence of a master painter’s individual touch. My individual touch is that of a robotic arm. I have pre-programmed every idea and have carefully considered the ramifications of every decision made throughout the process of creating the work. It’s quite possible that some of the meat on my artwork’s bone has been sacrificed during the cooking process, but you can be sure that the recipe has been followed exactly. And that taste you are tasting now as you view it? That’s exactly how I wanted it to taste.

–Dusty Mitchell

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Arkansas Arts Center presents the jewelry of Robert Baines

Author: Arkansas Arts CenterFiled under: Exhibitions, Museum

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The exquisite and beguiling creations of Australian National Living Treasure Robert Baines will be on view at the Arkansas Arts Center July 20 through October 7, 2018. Robert Baines: Living Treasure and Fabulous Follies celebrates the dazzling and witty work of the master goldsmith, craftsman and scholar.

A leading scholar in the field of archaeometallurgy, Baines has studied and revived Bronze Age goldsmith techniques in service of international jewelry scholarship. His study of the ancient techniques also has informed his artistic practice for more than 40 years. In Living Treasure and Fabulous Follies, Baines assembles a fictitious jewelry narrative, captivating not only in the creativity and craftsmanship evident in the works, but also in the artist’s fascination with the enigma of jewelry as material evidence of authentic history.

Baines’ jewelry references the design vocabulary of historic European metalworking techniques in a completely distinct aesthetic. By using ancient techniques in playful new ways, Baines challenges the mythology present in contemporary culture. By combining precious metals and contemporary materials, he pushes the boundaries of what wearable art can be.

Living Treasure and Fabulous Follies features 76 works organized into three narrative arcs – ArmbanditsCollecting, and The Official History of the Compact Disc – each presenting jewelry as material evidence. The jewelry, however, should be viewed with caution – the artist’s linear “histories” are rife with myth, riddle, puzzle and possible subversions of their origin. In Armbandits, Baines explores how an 11th century Islamic armlet in the collection of the Metropolitan Museum of Art may have been “misunderstood, misinterpreted and become a fantasy of influence of further design,” ranging from armbands, bracelets, and finger rings to a hair clip and buttons. He even posits that the design of the popular Australian VoVo® marshmallow biscuit is “a result of a series of misinterpretations” of the armlet.

In Collecting, Baines curates “the smallest collection of large jewelry in the world.” Assembled both for the significance of their scale – large and small – the works are fabricated in complex detail and contain multiple, intricate components. In The Official History of the Compact Disc, Baines argues how the “B.C. and the A.D. of the C.D. is a fractured historical narrative of the evolution of the now common compact disc (CD)” as seen through “its repetitive manifestations in a linear jewelry history.” The section contains a variety of disc-shaped brooches, including an early and very complex Etruscan gold disc said to be from the fifth century B.C. and concludes with the most technically complex work, Brooch, Meaner Than Yellow. Between them is a variety of brooches featuring a menagerie of animals, including felines, giraffes, and rabbits.

One of the most prominent contemporary goldsmiths in the world, Baines is the recipient of numerous international awards, including the Bayerischer State Prize (2005) and Friedrich Becker Prize (2008) in Germany; and the Cicely and Colin Rigg Craft Award (1997), the richest craft prize in Australia. He holds a Ph.D. from the Royal Melbourne Institute of Technology (RMIT), where he is a professor of gold and silversmithing. In 2010, he was designated a Living Treasure: Master of Australian Craft. Baines’s astonishingly detailed metalwork, which reflects his studies in archaeometallurgy, embodies ancient techniques such as linear wirework and granulation but with the scale, grandeur, and irony of current practice. His jewelry is contained in countless international museum collections, including: National Gallery of Australia, Canberra; Powerhouse Museum, Sidney; National Gallery of Victoria, Melbourne; The Museum of Fine Arts, Houston; Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York; Schmuckmuseum, Pforzheim, Germany; Museum für Kunst und Gewerbe, Hamburg; and Musée des Arts Décoratifs, Paris; among others.

Robert Baines: Living Treasure and Fabulous Follies is organized by Gallery Loupe for Contemporary Art Jewelry, Montclair, New Jersey, in collaboration with the Arkansas Arts Center. Its American tour is generously supported by the Australian government through the Australia Council for the Arts. Its presentation in Arkansas is supported by: Marion W. Fulk; Alan DuBois Contemporary Craft Fund; and Ginanne Graves Long.

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