The Arkansas Arts Center holds a Groundbreaking Ceremony to celebrate the beginning of construction for its stunning new facility

Author: Arkansas Arts CenterFiled under: Building, Children's Theatre, Museum, Museum School

Designed by award-winning architect, Jeanne Gang and Studio Gang, and noted landscape architect, Kate Orff and SCAPE, the project is slated for completion in 2022

Arkansas Arts Center Foundation President Bobby Tucker, Board of Trustees President Merritt Dyke, SCAPE Founder and Design Director Kate Orff, Arkansas Arts Center Executive Director Victoria Ramirez, Studio Gang Founding Principal Jeanne Gang, Capital Campaign Co-Chairs Harriet and Warren Stephens, and Little Rock Mayor Frank Scott, Jr. at Tuesday’s Groundbreaking Ceremony

The Arkansas Arts Center (AAC) held a mid-morning Groundbreaking Ceremony today to commemorate the beginning of construction of its stunning, reimagined Arts Center. Upon completion in 2022, the current facility will be entirely transformed through an exciting design by renowned architect Jeanne Gang and her practice, Studio Gang. The project also includes a landscape design that will connect the AAC with the surrounding MacArthur Park, by award-winning designer Kate Orff and SCAPE. Both Jeanne Gang and Kate Orff are MacArthur Fellows who have received prestigious “Genius Grants” from the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation.

“As we gather to commemorate the beginning of construction, today marks a major step forward toward ensuring that the Arkansas Arts Center is an important and flourishing cultural resource now and in the future,” said Campaign Co-Chair Warren Stephens. “This is a truly historic day in the life of our city, state, and region.”

“Today, we commit to ensuring that the Arkansas Arts Center will be a cultural beacon for the region, showcasing art that educates, inspires, provokes, and beautifies our lives. All people, from young to young at heart, will gather here as a community to celebrate, learn, and cross boundaries,” said Arkansas Arts Center Executive Director, Dr. Victoria Ramirez. “The project embraces the Arkansas Arts Center’s rich history and looks forward to a future that exceeds our expectations. I am honored to be working with all of you to make this vision a reality.”

View From The North: Daytime view from downtown Little Rock of the Arkansas Arts Center’s new north entrance. The Cultural Living Room signals the new entrance from Crescent Drive, and creates a new courtyard plaza that reveals the historic, 1937 façade. Image courtesy of Studio Gang and SCAPE.

Architects Jeanne Gang and Kate Orff spoke at the Groundbreaking Ceremony, relaying key points about the project’s design and impact.

“The design for the reimagined Arkansas Arts Center features new and renovated spaces for gathering and community events to create dynamic connections among the state-of-the-art galleries and exhibitions, renovated Museum School, and upgraded Children’s Theatre,” said Jeanne Gang, Architect and Founding Principal of Studio Gang. “One of our main goals for the project is to allow the architecture to invite interaction, discovery, creativity, and learning.”

“The site design will provide a seamless transition between the Arkansas Arts Center and MacArthur Park,” said Kate Orff, Founder of SCAPE. “With native plantings, a tree canopy, walking paths, and a great lawn for events, the landscape design will provide useable and accessible space for visitors, and create a true ‘Arts Center in the Park’.”

Entrance from the South: Daytime view of the new south entrance to the Arkansas Arts Center, from MacArthur Park. A new restaurant with outdoor shaded seating overlooks the park, and connects to a new network of walking paths and stormwater-fed gardens designed by SCAPE. Image courtesy of Studio Gang and SCAPE.

The project is made possible through Reimagining the Arkansas Arts Center: Campaign for Our Cultural Future, a $128 million fundraising campaign, which will fund the new Arts Center for the 21st Century, and provide support for transition, opening, and endowment. At the Groundbreaking Ceremony, Campaign Co-Chairs Harriet and Warren Stephens announced that the Campaign has now raised more than $122.7 million of its $128 million goal to-date.

The campaign includes a commitment of $31,245,000 from the City of Little Rock, which is being generated through a hotel-tax revenue bond. Lead donors include Windgate Foundation, Harriet and Warren Stephens, the State of Arkansas, and Winthrop Rockefeller Charitable Trust. The Campaign now has twenty-two “21st Century Founders” – donors who are contributing gifts of $1 million to $35 million. Thirty-two families and foundations are now leadership donors to the campaign, having given between $100,000 and $1 million. There are many others who have donated gifts, as well.  

estaurant Terrace On MacArthur Park: At the southern end of the reimagined Arkansas Arts Center, new pathways and plantings connect the building to MacArthur Park, including a new restaurant with outdoor shaded seating that overlooks the park, and new landscape features that include walking paths and a great lawn for community events. Image courtesy of Studio Gang and SCAPE.

“We remain incredibly grateful to all of the donors to-date, the City of Little Rock, and the State of Arkansas for saying ‘yes’ to Art, and to the Arkansas Arts Center,” said Campaign Co-Chair Harriet Stephens. “The project is grand in scope and impact and will need the participation of many to reach an ambitious goal. As we anticipate the Grand Opening in 2022, we look forward to involving many more people in the campaign.”

AAC Board of Trustees President, Merritt Dyke, and Little Rock Mayor, Frank Scott, Jr. also spoke to commemorate the occasion. Harriet and Warren Stephens, Dr. Victoria Ramirez, Jeanne Gang, Kate Orff, Merritt Dyke, and Mayor Frank Scott, Jr. were then joined by AAC Foundation Board Chair, Robert W. Tucker for the ceremonial groundbreaking. The celebration included performances by the Parkview Arts and Science Magnet Jazz Ensemble, the Episcopal Collegiate School Choir, and the Episcopal Collegiate Percussion Band for the capacity crowd.

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 2022.

Reimagining the Arkansas Arts Center:
Campaign for Our Cultural Future
Donors To Date

21ST CENTURY FOUNDERS
Windgate Foundation
City of Little Rock
Harriet and Warren Stephens
Winthrop Rockefeller Charitable Trust
State of Arkansas
Terri and Chuck Erwin
The Brown Foundation, Inc., of Houston
Mandy and Bill Dillard
Ben and Walter Hussman and Hussman Foundation
The Tyson Family in honor of Terri and Chuck Erwin
Stella Boyle Smith Trust
Chucki and Curt Bradbury
Anne and Merritt Dyke in honor of Helen L. Porter and James T. Dyke
Helen Porter and Jim Dyke
Dede and Scott Ford and Jo Ellen and Joe Ford
Robyn and John Horn
Keller Family Foundation: Julie Keller and Christoph Keller III;
Laura Porter Keller and Thomas Christoph Keller;
Mary Olive Keller Stephens and John Calhoun Stephens
Lynn and George O’Connor
Barbara Tyson
Anonymous (2)

LEADERSHIP DONORS
The Family of H. Tyndall and Carrie R. Dickinson
Jackye and Curtis Finch Jr
Lisenne Rockefeller
Belinda Shults
Dianne and Bobby Tucker
Trinity Foundation
Sandra and Robert C. Connor
Donna and Mack McLarty
The Middleton Family
Judy and Randy Wilbourn
Boots and Alan Warrick
Sunderland Foundation
Pam and Rick Blank
Virginia Stuart Cobb
Laura and Mark Doramus
Kelly and Brad Eichler
Cindy and Greg Feltus
Judy W. Fletcher in memory of John R. Fletcher
Rosalyn and Harry Hastings Family
Barbara Rogers Hoover
Mimi M. and Joseph B. Hurst, Jr.
W. W. and Anne Jones Charitable Trust
Jeanne and Harold Joyner in honor of Harriet and Warren Stephens
Kay and Bill Patton
Cindy and Warren Simpson
Roy & Christine Sturgis Charitable Trust
Sherry Worthen in memory of George Worthen
Anonymous in honor of Merritt Dyke
Anonymous (4)

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