Arkansas Arts Center remains vibrant in year of historic progress

Author: Arkansas Arts CenterFiled under: Artmobile, Building, Children's Theatre, Community, Delta 60, Education, Faculty & Staff, Museum, Museum School, News, Theater on Tour

Incoming Executive Director Victoria Ramirez joins Arts Center leadership in celebrating the year’s accomplishments

The Arkansas Arts Center continued to deliver accessible and engaging programs during a year of historic transition, leaders announced at the September 23 Annual Meeting. The Arts Center’s new Executive Director Victoria Ramirez joined Board of Trustees President Merritt Dyke, Foundation President Bobby Tucker and Interim Executive Director Laine Harber in congratulating the board, foundation, staff and community on a year of remarkable accomplishments.

Throughout a year of monumental change for the 56-year-old organization, the Arkansas Arts Center continued to offer dynamic and diverse programming in the Museum, Museum School and Children’s Theatre. Last year, the Arts Center also launched a $128 million capital campaign, a crucial step in realizing the transformation of its MacArthur Park home into a stunning new Arts Center for the 21st century. The Arts Center also established initiatives to remain vibrant, accessible and community-oriented while its MacArthur Park building is under construction over the next two-and-a-half years, including its move to a temporary space in the Riverdale Shopping Center and partnerships with the Central Arkansas Library System and other community organizations.

“It has been an honor to serve as interim director during this exciting year at the Arts Center,” Interim Director Laine Harber said. “I look forward to working closely with Victoria as she establishes a vision that will carry us into the future.”

Interim Executive Director Laine Harber poses with Junior Arts Academy students.

Harber has served as interim executive director since August 2018 while the Arts Center searched for a new permanent director. Last month, the Arts Center announced that Ramirez will join the Arkansas Arts Center as executive director.

Dr. Victoria Ramirez
Arkansas Arts Center Executive Director Dr. Victoria Ramirez

“I congratulate and commend the board, foundation and staff on another successful year,” Ramirez said. “The Arts Center is well-known for its high-quality exhibitions and engaging programming – and its past successes will undoubtedly chart the course for the future. I look forward to building on this work at the Riverdale location and at the reimagined Arkansas Arts Center when it opens in 2022.”

At the meeting, Harber outlined several of the historic milestones reached over the past year. 

In May, the Arts Center launched Reimagining the Arkansas Arts Center: Campaign for Our Cultural Future, a $128 million fundraising campaign to realize a stunning new Arts Center. At the May 15 announcement, Campaign Co-Chairs Harriet and Warren Stephens announced that $118 million of the $128 million goal had been raised to-date.

Capital Campaign Co-Chairs Harriet and Warren Stephens with Studio Gang Founder and Design Principal Jeanne Gang at the May 15 Capital Campaign Announcement.

“A remarkable group has come together with a clear understanding of the importance of reimagining the Arkansas Arts Center for the 21st Century,” Campaign Co-Chair Harriet Stephens said. “We will now reach out to the entire community and state for support to realize this once-in-a-lifetime project. Together, we can ensure that the Arkansas Arts Center is a thriving and influential cultural institution for present and future generations.”

The Arts Center also made significant strides toward its commitment to maintaining its community presence while construction begins on its MacArthur Park building with a partnership with the Central Arkansas Library System. Beginning this fall, visitors will find objects from the Arkansas Arts Center’s 1,500-work contemporary craft collection on view at 15 CALS locations. Carefully selected for the community relevance, each installation includes works that reference the environment, history and mission of the library branch where they’re located, illustrating the incredible diversity of the Arts Center’s collection of contemporary craft objects.

Visitors will also find some of their favorite Arts Center youth and adult programs at neighborhood libraries. Art Start, a collaboration between the Arkansas Arts Center and CALS, will be hosted monthly at the Hillary Rodham Clinton Children’s Library & Learning Center. The program, designed for toddlers and pre-school-aged children, includes stories about art and artists, gallery activities and art-making projects. Super Sunday Free Family Funday, a monthly, free art-making program is also being held at the Children’s Library. Art Together, a partnership with Alzheimer’s Arkansas to provide an art experience for adults with dementia-spectrum disorders and their care partners, will be offered at the Cox Creative Center.  

The Arkansas Arts Center’s temporary location in Riverdale includes Museum School studios, Children’s Theatre rehearsal space, and exhibition and event space.

In February, the Arts Center announced a move to a temporary location at 2510 Cantrell Road to continue programming during construction. The move is one piece of the AAC’s commitment to remaining accessible to the community while its MacArthur Park facility is under construction, and to working with arts partners across the region to expand programming reach. The Riverdale location, which includes studio space for Museum School classes, design and rehearsal space for the Children’s Theatre, office space, and flexible education and exhibition space, is now open.

In April, the Arts Center launched Children’s Theatre Restaged. Through this expanded Children’s Theatre on Tour program, literary-based theatre productions will continue to travel to schools, community centers and libraries across Arkansas. The 2019–2020 Children’s Theatre on Tour season will include Wynken, Blynken and Nod: A Play for the Very Young (September 24 – October 20), A Christmas Carol (November 12 – December 20), The Arkansas Story Porch (January 23 – March 6), and The Wind in the Willows (April 7 – May 15).

In June, the Arts Center premiered DELTA 60, a documentary exploration of the artists and artwork featured in the Annual Delta Exhibition. The original documentary explores the innovative work featured in the 60th Annual Delta Exhibition through the eyes of 10 Arkansas artists. Following these artists as they create work that addresses place, identity, representation and history, DELTA 60 proves the power of art to challenge its viewers – and its makers. The documentary will be featured in the upcoming Fayetteville Film Festival.

Harber enumerated the year’s successful exhibitions, highlighting visitors’ reflections on the art left in gallery comment books and on social media. The Arts Center’s calendar of featured exhibitions represented a diverse range of artistic expression. Robert Baines: Living Treasure and Fabulous Follies explored the artists’ use of ancient metalworking techniques to challenge contemporary culture. Independent Vision: Modern and Contemporary Art from the Martin Muller Collection featured nearly 90 works San Francisco-based gallerist Martin Muller as a tribute to the Arts Center and the city of Little Rock. Photographing Frida: Portraits of Frida Kahlo/Fotografiando Frida: Retratos de Frida Kahlo offered a rare opportunity for visitors to see Frida Kahlo as she was captured by some of the 20th century’s most important photographers. POP! Out of the Vault: Andy Warhol’s Little Red Book explored a treasure trove of Pop Art found in the Arkansas Arts Center Foundation Collection.

The Artmobile traveled 2,904 miles across Arkansas last year to serve 11,518 students.

Harber also highlighted several programming successes. Statewide ArtsReach programs visited 50 communities in 44 Arkansas counties, reaching 420,999 people. He noted a particularly sharp increase in the number of students enrolled in Museum School Classes. He also noted the Arts Center’s acquisition of 150 new memberships to the community of nearly 3,500 member households.

Foundation President Bobby Tucker briefly highlighted the acquisition of 89 works of art into the Arkansas Arts Center Foundation Collection, including nine purchases and 80 donations.

Works from the Arkansas Arts Center Foundation Collection traveled a total of 6,362 miles to be loaned to museums across the country, including the Center for Art in Wood in Philadelphia, the San Antonio Museum of Art in San Antonio, the Zimmerli Museum of Art at Rutgers University in New Brunswick, N.J., the Metal Museum in Memphis, Tenn., Garvey|Simon in New York, the Clinton Presidential Center in Little Rock, Ark., the Central Arkansas Library System Roberts Library in Little Rock, Ark., the Windgate Center for Art and Design in Little Rock, Ark., the Historic Arkansas Museum in Little Rock, Ark., the Bradbury Art Museum at Arkansas State University in Jonesboro, Ark., and the Arts & Sciences Center for Southeast Arkansas in Pine Bluff, Ark.   

Arkansas Arts Center Board of Trustees President Merritt Dyke accepts the Winthrop Rockefeller Award at the Arts Center’s Annual Meeting September 23.

Little Rock Mayor Frank Scott, Jr. recognized outgoing trustees Sara Hendricks Batcheller and Brenda Mize, as well as outgoing ex-officio trustees Mark Stodola for the City of Little Rock, Kelly Phillips for the Junior League of North Little Rock, Neil Gillespie for the Friends of Contemporary Craft, Jessie McClarty for the Contemporaries, and Susan Day for the docents. Board President Merritt Dyke recognized incoming trustees Dr. Laurence Alexander, Dr. Loren Bartole and Amanda Wilson Denton, reappointed trustees Kaki Hockersmith, Diane Jonsson, Patrick O’Sullivan, Terri Snowden, and Van Tilbury, incoming ex-officio trustees Frank Scott, Jr. for the City of Little Rock, Shantea Nelson for the Junior League of Little Rock, Jim Gorman for the Docents, and Heather Wardle for the Contemporaries, and reappointed ex-officio trustees Joe Smith for the City of North Little Rock and Kenya Eddings for the Junior League of Little Rock. Dyke also recognized former trustees who passed away in the past year.

Harber presented the “Winthrop Rockefeller Memorial Award” to Board of Trustees President Merritt Dyke. 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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The Arkansas Arts Center announces the appointment of Dr. Victoria Ramirez as its new Executive Director

Author: Arkansas Arts CenterFiled under: Building, Museum, News

Dr. Ramirez’s leadership and vision will be key to fulfilling the promise of the reimagined Arkansas Arts Center, slated for completion in 2022

Dr. Victoria Ramirez
Arkansas Arts Center Executive Director Dr. Victoria Ramirez

The Arkansas Arts Center (AAC) is pleased to announce the appointment of Dr. Victoria Ramirez as its new Executive Director. A visionary leader in the museum field, with more than 20 years of executive-level museum administration experience, Dr. Ramirez has led renovation projects, developed exhibitions and education programs, and launched programmatic and 21st century digital initiatives to increase museum attendance and participation. She has also played an integral role in many fundraising campaigns, securing support from significant national foundations and major corporations.

Dr. Ramirez will come directly to the Arkansas Arts Center from her position as Director of the El Paso Museum of Art (EPMA), a municipal museum in El Paso, Texas that serves community members of all ages. While at EPMA, she oversaw all aspects of museum administration, operations and programming, including a collection of more than 7,000 works, 12 annual exhibitions, and a robust art school. She led gallery renovation activities; oversaw strategic planning; expanded the art school; increased attendance, membership and student engagement; and worked closely with the EPMA Foundation Board on planning and fundraising initiatives. Under Dr. Ramirez’s direction, the EPMA was awarded the prestigious Medal of Honor by the Institution for Museum and Library Services in recognition of dynamic programming and services.

Previously, Dr. Ramirez served as the Deputy Director of the Bullock Texas State History Museum in Austin Texas, where she oversaw a staff of 85 members and was responsible for all museum facilities, including permanent galleries, rotating exhibition spaces, two theatres, classrooms, café, store, and grounds. She was also the W.T. and Louise J. Moran Education Director at the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston, Texas, where she oversaw long-range planning and directed activities of the education department.

Dr. Ramirez holds an Ed.D. in Curriculum and Instruction from the University of Houston, in Houston, Texas; a M.A. in Museum Education and Art History from George Washington University in Washington, D.C.; and a B.A. in Art History from the University of Maryland in College Park, Maryland. She is also a Member of the Task Force on Diversity, Equity, Accessibility and Inclusion in Museum Excellence for the American Alliance of Museums.

“We are truly honored to welcome Dr. Ramirez to the Arkansas Arts Center,” said Merritt Dyke, President of the Arts Center Board of Trustees. “Her deep experience in exhibitions, education, planning, and fundraising comes at the perfect time as we work to strengthen the Arkansas Arts Center as the regions’ premier center for the visual and performing arts. I’d like to offer my sincerest thanks to Laine Harber, our Chief Financial Officer, who has expertly served as the Interim Director of the Arts Center since August 2018.”

“The Arkansas Arts Center is a jewel for Little Rock and the region, and the project to re-envision the Arts Center will undoubtedly usher in the most expansive era in the institution’s history,” said Dr. Victoria Ramirez. “It is an honor and a privilege to be the new Executive Director during this transformative time. I am looking forward to working with the Arts Center’s Board, Foundation, staff, and Capital Campaign Co-Chairs Harriet and Warren Stephens to realize the vision for the new Art Center and launch its next, exciting chapter.”

“As we continue on our journey toward the Grand Opening of the reimagined Arkansas Arts Center in 2022, Dr. Ramirez is an ideal choice for Executive Director. The renovation project is grand in scope and impact, and her experience and vision will be central to fulfilling the promise of the new Arkansas Arts Center,” said Campaign Co-Chair Warren Stephens. “With the hiring of Dr. Ramirez, the Arts Center Board is reaffirming its commitment to the inspirational power and educational possibilities that art brings to the young people and adults in our city, state and region.”

The Arkansas Arts Center is currently conducting a $128 million special fundraising campaign, Reimagining the Arkansas Arts Center: Campaign for Our Cultural Future, that will realize a stunning new Arts Center for the 21st Century. The project will result in a complete reenvisioning of the AAC by renowned architect Jeanne Gang and her practice, Studio Gang. The new AAC will include a landscape design, by Kate Orff and SCAPE, which will expand the connection between the AAC facility and MacArthur Park. Both Jeanne Gang and Kate Orff are award-winning architects and MacArthur fellows who have received prestigious MacArthur “Genius” grants. The Campaign will also provide transition and opening support, and endowment funds.

During construction, the Arkansas Arts Center has moved from its current facility in MacArthur Park into a temporary location at the Riverdale Shopping Center at 2510 Cantrell Road in Little Rock. Classes, education programs and performances will continue at the temporary location from Fall 2019 through the new Arts Center’s planned Grand Opening in early 2022.

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Voices of the Delta: Emily Moll Wood

Author: Arkansas Arts CenterFiled under: Delta 61, Delta 61, Delta Exhibition, Exhibitions, Museum, Voices of the Delta

Emily Wood, Working Self-Portrait, 2018, watercolor and watercolor pencil on worn shirt, 13 x 28 x 2 inches

Working takes many forms, and it is how we spend so much of our waking hours. But what does it mean to work? I painted a self-portrait on one of my husband’s discarded “work shirts” to explore this question. For work, he wears one of these “work shirts” with a suit and tie and goes to an office. Am I “working” if I’m caring for a child at home and painting while naps, hopefully, happen? Am I “working” if I’m making art but not making a regular paycheck? Of course I am! But does society really think so? How does it affect others’ view and my own self-worth when sometimes it seems as though caring for kids and making art are not viewed as “work”?

The medium and surface used for this piece involves some control and some element of chance. I like to experiment with how watercolor paint spreads and/or the colors bleed together differently when using various types of fabrics as the surface. I enjoy the challenge of figuring out how to make the paint work – controlling it as much as the medium and surface will allow, but while also embracing the unpredictability of it. This is an appropriate metaphor to my life right now – raising small children while trying to maintain a career and grow as an artist. I’m learning to let go but finding ways to control what I can.

– Emily Moll Wood

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Voices of the Delta: Deb Peregrine

Author: Arkansas Arts CenterFiled under: Delta 61, Delta 61, Delta Exhibition, Exhibitions, Museum, Voices of the Delta

Deb Peregrine, Bix, 2018, encaustic, 10 x 10 x 2 inches

Art class was my favorite. I won a summer scholarship to the Art Institute of Chicago, earning my first solo exhibition. Wandering the halls of the Art Institute at a young age affected me deeply. I wanted to become an Impressionist. One of my idols is Carl Krafft, an early 20th century Expressionist painter from Chicago. He traveled to the Ozarks to paint and started the Ozark Painters Society. When he passed in 1936, the Art Institute had an exhibition of his work. I can see Krafft’s influence in my paintings. I want my art to tell a story, to be viewer friendly, to inspire someone to pick up a brush or pen.

– Deb Peregrine

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Voices of the Delta: Jason Rankin

Author: Arkansas Arts CenterFiled under: Delta 61, Delta 61, Delta Exhibition, Exhibitions, Museum, Voices of the Delta

Jason Rankin, Bend 4, 2018, graphite on paper, 50 x 38 inches

It is my intention to create art that is accessible to the greatest number of people. I feel that graphite pencils on paper is the most ubiquitous of all art forms, as almost everyone in the Western world has drawn with a pencil on paper at some point. My drawings are intended to express my personal concepts of beauty, mostly through human form and expression.  

My friend Katya has become my muse for most of my recent work, including the “Bend” series. This work is a collaboration between artist and model, allowing her to express herself in the way she chooses, while allowing me to express my own personal concepts of beauty via the human form.

– Jason Rankin

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Voices of the Delta: Carrie Ballinger Porter

Author: Arkansas Arts CenterFiled under: Delta 61, Delta 61, Delta Exhibition, Exhibitions, Museum, Voices of the Delta

Carrie Ballinger Porter, Cracks in the Landscape I, 2018, Polaroid emulsion transfer with graphite, 6 x 12 x 1 1/2 inches

In my most recent work, Cracks in the Landscape Series, I have been focused on manipulating the agricultural landscapes that one sees on the eastern half of Arkansas. These works are first taken on a 1980’s era Polaroid Instant camera. After the image has developed, I take the actual photo apart and soak it. I then remove the film or skin on which the image sits and then place it carefully on basswood or other suitable backing. At this point the image can be moved, twisted, pulled or folded. Almost as if it were a piece of unique, delicate fabric. Working in this way it is difficult to predict what the image will do. Sometimes they break or tear sometimes not. I think the imperfections are what make these landscapes so inviting. These images are meant to capture a quietness and stillness of the landscapes they represent.

– Carrie Ballinger Porter

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Voices of the Delta: Alice Guffey Miller

Author: Arkansas Arts CenterFiled under: Delta 61, Delta 61, Delta Exhibition, Exhibitions, Museum, Voices of the Delta

Alice Guffey Miller, Survivor Barbie and the Naked Truth, 2019, mixed media, 8 x 3 1/2 x 2 1/2 feet

Barbie, the Great American Icon, has become an artistic medium in several of my creations. This particular Barbie survived thousands of miles as a hood ornament before rising up to expose the naked truth about today’s America. Climbing out of the ruins, she lifts with her all the little people: the down-trodden, the marginalized, the others. Barbie’s ascension speaks of the survival of the Feminine over oppression and subjugation, a triumph of peace and love over strife and hatred. She is naked because truth is always naked: without pretense, show or shame.

– Alice Guffey Miller

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Voices of the Delta: Carol Hart

Author: Arkansas Arts CenterFiled under: Delta 61, Delta 61, Exhibitions, Museum, Voices of the Delta

Carol Hart, Big Changes in the Old Neighborhood, 2018, mixed media, 30 x 30 x 1 1/2 inches

Time just seems to stand still while I’m painting. I continue to be surprised and delighted at how painting both intrigues and engages me. I am an acrylic and mixed media painter and I paint with a sense of urgency.  I love experimenting with a variety of subjects, mediums and materials. I enjoy the challenge and joy of painting figures, landscapes, and abstracts. Regardless of the subject matter, I take an abstract approach, using bold bright colors, broad-brush strokes and frequently embellish my work with drawing and collage. I focus on the relationship between shapes and create the movement necessary to draw the viewer in and around the painting.  Once the process has started, I tend to paint instinctively looking for those unanticipated surprises to guide me.

– Carol Hart

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