Winter Wonderland

Author: Arkansas Arts CenterFiled under: Collection, Museum

Winter-themed works from the Arkansas Arts Center Foundation Collection offer a journey to a winter wonderland.

Andrew Wyeth, American (Chadds Ford, Pennsylvania, 1917 – 2009, Chadds Ford, Pennsylvania), Snowflakes, circa 1966, watercolor on paper, 8 7/8 x 11 7/8 inches, Arkansas Arts Center Foundation Collection: Purchase, Tabriz Fund and Museum Purchase Plan of the NEA. 1971.009.001

The Arkansas Arts Center and Ballet Arkansas have a shared history that dates to 1974, when the Arkansas Arts Center’s dance classes became so popular, they formed a whole new department dedicated to ballet. The Arkansas Arts Center partnered with Donald and Lorraine Cranford, founders of the Little Rock Civic Ballet, to form the Arkansas Arts Center Ballet Academy. Four years later, the Academy went on to become the non-profit organization, Ballet Arkansas under the guidance of Lorraine Cranford. The Arkansas Arts Center and Ballet Arkansas have continued their partnership, supporting one another innovatively throughout the years. This Winter Wonderland experience is one that is timely and showcases the merging of visual and performing arts. In this program, participants will view vignettes of the beloved Nutcracker story performed by Ballet Arkansas and see creative sets designed by artists of the Arkansas Arts Center. Before you go on your journey, take some time to learn more about the Nutcracker storyline and view a selection of artworks from the Arkansas Arts Center Foundation Collection that are sure to get you in a wintery mood.

The Nutcracker

Clara Stahlbalm’s family hosts an extravagant Christmas party every year, bringing friends and family together for dancing, games, and gifts around their magnificent Christmas tree. Clara’s godfather, Herr Drosselmeyer, is always a very welcomed guest, using magic tricks and dancing toys to entertain all the children. This year Herr Drosselmeyer gives Clara a beautiful wooden Nutcracker soldier which she loves dearly. After the raucous party, Clara creeps out of bed, worrying over her lonely Nutcracker. With her Nutcracker in arm, she falls asleep on the sofa. There enters Herr Drosselmeyer who casts a bit of magic. Clara awakens to find everything in the house growing. The family’s Christmas tree is now towering over her and her beloved Nutcracker is just her size! A colony of giant mice led by the evil Mouse King appears, and her Nutcracker leads a group of toy soldiers to fight them off. In the end, Clara manages to distract the Mouse King, allowing the Nutcracker to win the fight.

The Nutcracker transforms, revealing himself to be the Young Prince who takes Clara through the magical land of snow to share the news of the Mouse King’s defeat. The Snowflakes celebrate with them in the Pine Forest before Clara and the Young Prince travel onward to the Land of Sweets. There they regale the Sugarplum Fairy and her subjects with the tale of the victorious battle. The regal Sugarplum Fairy commemorates the momentous occasion with a party for Clara and the Young Prince. Subjects of the Kingdom of Sweets – Chocolate, Coffee, Tea, Marzipan, Peppermint, Gingerbread, and others – dance in their honor.

When the celebration has ended, Clara finds herself at home once more. Did she ever really travel through those magical lands with her beloved prince? Or was it just a dream?

Now that you have been reacquainted with the story of the Nutcracker, take a visual tour of these carefully curated winter-themed artworks from the Arkansas Arts Center’s Foundation Collection. Each work has been specifically chosen to enhance the visual experience of this Winter Wonderland journey.

Dale Nichols, Symphonic Silence, 1965

Dale Nichols, American (David City, Nebraska, 1904 – 1995, Sedona, Arizona), Symphonic Silence, 1965, oil on canvas, 21 x 34 1/2 inches, Arkansas Arts Center Foundation Collection: Gift of Mr. and Mrs. Herbert L. Storthz. 1967.004.001

Painter and illustrator Dale Nichols, best known for arcadian landscapes, particularly loved painting snow-blanketed settings. In Symphonic Silence, a lone wayfarer (found in the lower left corner of the painting) treks through the snow as massive mountains rise before him. The work is filled with peace and quiet, but the swell of the very environment is indeed a symphony of sights.

The tiny traveler in the monumental landscape makes one feel very small. As viewers, we are reminded of the scene in the Nutcracker when the Christmas tree seems to grow, though in actuality it is Clara who is shrinking to the size of her beloved Nutcracker. The mice come in, looming over her, the tree towers like this gigantic mountain range. It can be intimidating to be in the presence of something so large.

Melissa Dooley Photography 2017

Andrew Wyeth, Snowflakes, 1966

Andrew Wyeth, American (Chadds Ford, Pennsylvania, 1917 – 2009, Chadds Ford, Pennsylvania), Snowflakes, circa 1966, watercolor on paper, 8 7/8 x 11 7/8 inches, Arkansas Arts Center Foundation Collection: Purchase, Tabriz Fund and Museum Purchase Plan of the NEA. 1971.009.001

Andrew Wyeth, realist painter from Pennsylvania, painted what he saw around him – the people and the settings. The man in this watercolor was vagrant World War II veteran, Willard Snowden, who lived with Wyeth for several years. When creating artworks, Wyeth was most interested in the light and shape of a subject. For him, narrative took a back seat to form.

In this work, a man stands outside in the cold wearing a light jacket with a hood. The blank white of the background leaves the viewer feeling rather like they are somewhere far away from shelter, out in the wilderness. It is strangely peaceful. Indications of snowflakes dot the foreground over the subject. They dance and drift in the lonely wilds, just as the beautiful Snowflakes danced the dark and magical Christmas Tree Kingdom during their Waltz of the Snowflakes in the Nutcracker ballet.  

Dero Sanford 2018

Chris Doyle, The Falls III, 2014

Chris Doyle, American (Pennsylvania, 1959 – ), The Falls III, watercolor on paper, 2014, 45 1/2 x 45 1/2 inches, Arkansas Arts Center Foundation Collection: Purchase, Memorial Fund. 2017.023

Animator and artist Chris Doyle’s work, The Falls III, is part of a larger series centered on the idea of nature, water, and the evolving environment as it is affected by seasons and by mankind.

The amazing detail and realism with which this watercolor is rendered tempts viewers to step inside the scene. Banks of snow gather over clear, dark ice. A frozen waterfall stilled in time forms majestic, rolling mounds and regal columns, creating a beautiful fantasy land. Too perfect to be real, one can imagine enchanted creatures calling this place home. Mysterious, yet welcoming, this magical setting would make an ideal backdrop for the Kingdom of Sweets.

Melissa Dooley Photography 2017

John Marin, Small Point, Maine, 1920

John Marin, American (Rutherford, New Jersey, 1870 – 1953, Cape Split, Maine), Small Point, Maine, 1920, watercolor and charcoal on heavy textured watercolor paper, 26 3/4 x 21 3/4 inches, Arkansas Arts Center Foundation Collection: Gift of Norma B. Marin. 2013.018.245

John Marin enjoyed drawing and painting cityscapes, though he did not like the crowds, with people bumping into him as they passed or asking him questions about what he was drawing. He tended to do his painting back in the studio where it was easier to handle the paint without interruption. In 1914 Marin took a summer trip to Maine and loved it so much he returned with great regularity. He even bought a small island off the coast of Small Point, Maine. There he could take his time drawing and painting out in nature without anyone around to bother him. Marin wrote to a friend, stating that the untamed places and animals “gives the heart a warmy, warmy feeling.”

This piece, Small Point, Maine, features a great evergreen rising from the rocky landscape. It seems to shine like a Christmas tree with all the colorful, natural “decorations.” Inthe Nutcracker, Clara’s home also features a grand, towering tree – and the warm glow and colorful adornments provide a sensation of joy and anticipation for the coming holiday. It is a commanding backdrop, both for the festive gift-giving scene as well as the thrilling battle with the Mouse King. A tree so magnificent is sure to give the viewer a holiday feeling as well.

Melissa Dooley Photography 2017

Grandma Fran, A Snowy Winter Day, 1997

Grandma Fran (Frances Louise Currey Brown), American (Indianapolis, Indiana, 1925 – 2012, Berryville, Arkansas), A Snowy Winter Day, watercolor on Arches paper, 1997, 15 1/8 x 22 3/4 inches, Arkansas Arts Center Foundation Collection: Gift of Sam L. and Cathleen M. Shultz. 2013.010

Elementary teacher Frances Louise Currey Brown, lovingly referred to as Grandma Fran, began her art career late in life. She started by painting simple, narrative pictures on postcards for her 2-year-old granddaughter. An artist passing through happened to see some of the postcards and suggested to Fran that she sell her work.

A Snowy Winter Day would make a perfect Christmas card for one of the children at the Christmas party during the beginning scenes of the Nutcracker. This artwork shows a snow-covered rural community with people going about their daily lives. Horse-drawn carriages and sleighs are everywhere. Boys and girls ice-skate and sled on the frozen river while others build a snowman in the yard. The scene is richly filled with detail which invites the viewer to explore this winter wonderland for long, reflective moments. One might begin to feel they are participating in this idyllic world as well! It certainly seems a gift, with just a spark of magic, that Herr Drosselmeyer might give.

Melissa Dooley Photography 2017

Will Barnet, Silent Seasons, Winter, 1969

Will Barnet, American (Beverly, Massachusetts, 1911 – 2012, New York, New York), Silent Seasons, Winter, lithograph, about 1969, 29 1/8 x 22 inches, Arkansas Arts Center Foundation Collection: Purchase, Tabriz Fund and Museum Purchase Plan of the NEA. 1971.009.011.2

In Silent Seasons, Winter, Will Barnet’s use of color is reminiscent of a mood rather than an effort to capture the photographic likeness of the setting.  Barnet once said that color to him is more representative than literal in his art. His almost austere compositionfeatures mostly dull, desaturated colors, evoking memories of cold, overcast days of wintertime.

The woman leans on the table, paying only the barest of attention to the parrot tugging playfully at her string. She seems distracted, contemplative – a thoughtfulness in her expression. What could she be daydreaming about? Are you reminded of Clara after she crept out of bed, worried over her precious, lonely Nutcracker? As she tenderly retrieves him and lies back down to sleep, her dreams manifest the raucous events of the evening, aided by a little bit of magic from Herr Drosselmeyer.

Melissa Dooley Photography 2019

Theresa Chong, Aput (Snow), 2009

Theresa Chong, American (Seoul, South Korea, 1965 – ), Aput (Snow), colored pencil and gouache on hand-dyed indigo Japanese paper, 2009, 32 x 46 inches, Arkansas Arts Center Foundation Collection: Purchase, Memorial Fund. 2016.039

Gradual, calm, meticulous – Theresa Chong creates artwork that reflects what she values most: solitude and a slower pace of life. Chong’s background as an accomplished cellist is influential in her work – she feels her cello playing teaches her to make “critical choices” while making art. The title, Aput (Snow), refers specifically to snow that has fallen on the ground in the native language of Inuit people of Alaska, where she grew up. The white dots connected with thin white lines spatter over a dark background. From a distance it appears chaotic, but up close it looks mathematical, delicate, and precise.

There indeed is something peaceful and calm in this work. This is not a literal landscape; it is an idea and a mood of a place. The musical sensibility of the artist’s hand conjures the memory of Clara and the Young Prince after the battle. The snowy setting is quiet and dark; the Snowflakes have not yet begun to celebrate. Clara and the Prince dance joyfully in this tranquil clearing in the Pine Forest in Winter scene from the Nutcracker ballet.

Melissa Dooley Photography 2017

Lindsey Knight, ArtsReach Coordinator

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The Figure in Monumental Ceramic

Author: Arkansas Arts CenterFiled under: Collection, Delta Exhibition, Museum

Patti Warashina’s ceramic sculptures reflect diverse influences – an approach clearly on display in Coupling, on view at the Central Arkansas Library System’s Rooker Library

Patti Warashina, American (Spokane, Washington, 1940 – ), Coupling, 1991, low-fire clay, underglaze acrylic, glaze, 93 x 67 1/2 x 24 inches, Arkansas Arts Center Foundation Collection: Purchased with gifts from Art-In-Bloom / Forum 1993 and Edward R. Roberts, New York. 1992.073.a-.h.

Artist Patti Warashina’s ceramic career has been ever evolving – in both form and scale. Her output ranges from wheel-thrown functional vessels made during her graduate school years in the early 1960s, to the stark-white, slip-cast figural groups of the 1980s, to the monumental and boldly colorful ceramics of the 1990s. “She sought color when only brown was easily available,” noted Vicki Halper, curator of Warashina’s 1992 retrospective exhibition. “She embraced painting when the rough clay surfaces and surprises of firing were obstacles in that path; she forced herself to produce mountains of molds with which to create her figurines; then she demanded scale though her kiln and studio are small and her sculptures too heavy to lift; above all she required the illusion of movement when stasis is safer and more congenial to a fragile medium lacking in tensile strength.”

Born Masae Patricia Warashina in 1940 in Spokane, Wash., to Japanese parents, Warashina grew up during the height of World War II. Because they lived inland, Warashina’s family was not forced to relocate to internment camps established for Japanese Americans; however, her maternal aunt and maternal grandmother, both of whom lived in Tacoma, were relocated to the Rohwer camp in Arkansas. Pride in her Japanese heritage would have a profound and lasting effect on her career. “I have always been aware of my Japanese heritage,” Warashina said, “because of my parents’ mantra, ‘to study hard,’ and ‘to not bring shame to your family name,’ words I have always found very hard to live by.” Following her education in Spokane, Warashina traveled west to Seattle. There, she attended the University of Washington, which she felt “was an outlet for me to get out of that whole thing [Spokane] – the social pressures had been so huge.” Liberated from family constraints placed on her to become well-educated and economically independent, Warashina gravitated to the art school. Reflecting on her decision to pursue an artistic career, Warashina recalled, “If I thought I had to support myself, I probably never would have tried art.”

While at the University of Washington, Warashina studied with ceramic artist Harold Myers. Myers had studied with pioneering ceramic artist Peter Voulkos, who challenged the technical and aesthetic properties of the medium. “When Voulkos came along, no one had to deal with the past anymore,” Warashina later recalled. Throughout her career, Warashina has consistently challenged herself to see how far she could take her human figures in both scale and subject. “I wanted them not just standing still; I wanted to see if I could make them running, because when you’re doing ceramics, your limitation is gravity. And when you have a figure running in space that is kind of the opposite of what you’re supposed to do. So I always kind of buck – I always did things I wasn’t supposed to do.”

Coupling on view at the Central Arkansas System’s Rooker Library

Nowhere is the full panoply of Warashina’s artistic conventions better illustrated than in her monumental sculpture Coupling (1991), on view now at Oley E. Rooker Library. Made up of eight distinct pieces, the eight-foot sculpture towers over the main reading room. It is a conjoined figure – half coded masculine and half feminine. Both sides are professionally attired: on one side a black suit, red bow tie, and black shoes; on the other, a cream dress and high-heeled shoes. The masculine figure points in one direction, while the feminine figure embraces the other half with one arm. They run through a cloudy, grassy landscape painted en grisaille. Are they coming? Are they going? It’s not clear, leaving us to our own imagination to create the narrative. With its disjointed presentation, the sculpture recalls the Cubist works of Pablo Picasso, Juan Gris, or Georges Braque. The enigmatic narrative also alludes to Warashina’s reverence for the art of Rene Magritte, Frida Kahlo, and other Surrealists, as well as the dream-like landscapes of Hieronymus Bosch. Other artists who had a profound effect on Warashina include Arshile Gorky, Joan Miro, and Paul Klee, as well as the artists of the Chicago-based group, the Hairy Who, who embraced use of the human figure and a bold use of color.

Warashina is nationally recognized for her work, both for her academic career teaching ceramics at the University of Washington, and for her artistic endeavors. This year, Warashina will be honored with the Smithsonian Visionary Award, which is given annually to an artist who has demonstrated distinction, creativity, exceptional artistry and vision in their respective medium.

– Brian J. Lang, Chief Curator and Windgate Foundation Curator of Contemporary Craft

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Arkansas Arts Center celebrates milestones in an unprecedented year

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

With the new building under construction in MacArthur Park, Arts Center continues to offer innovative and engaging programming

The Arkansas Arts Center reached milestones in its building project while continuing to deliver vibrant and accessible programming in a year of historic transition and unexpected challenges, leaders announced at the September 21 virtual Annual Meeting.

Little Rock Mayor Frank D. Scott, Jr. joined AAC Board of Trustees President Van Tilbury, AAC Foundation Chair Warren Stephens, Building Committee Chair Harriet Stephens, and Executive Director Victoria Ramirez in congratulating the board, foundation, staff and community on a year of remarkable accomplishments, including a balanced budget for the 11th consecutive year the Arts Center has ended in the black.

“This past year has been filled with remarkable learning opportunities,” Ramirez said. “As we look toward opening the new Arkansas Arts Center in 2022, we are reflecting on the work we have done in the past to chart our course into the future.”

The year was unlike any other in the Arts Center’s 57-year history. The Arts Center moved out of the old MacArthur Park building while launching programs with partners throughout the community to remain vibrant, accessible and community oriented while the new building is under construction. In October, the Arts Center broke ground on a transformational new building in MacArthur Park and welcomed Ramirez as executive director. When COVID-19 remade programming and outreach plans, the center launched Arkansas Arts Center Amplified to host online classes, digital exhibitions and virtual events.

Little Rock Mayor Frank Scott, Jr. recognized the work of the Capital Campaign Committee, Board of Trustees, Foundation Board and Arts Center staff during the past year. Scott also thanked the residents of Little Rock and the city Board of Director for their continued support of the Arts and the Arkansas Arts Center.  

“Your support of this project marks one of the most successful public-private partnerships in our community,” Scott said. “When the new Arts Center opens in 2022, it will be a place that will welcome all of us – a place for every Central Arkansan.”

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.

Arkansas Arts Center Board of Trustees President Van Tilbury congratulated the Arkansas Arts Center on a year of remarkable accomplishments, noting that the Board of Trustees continues it initiative to broaden support for the Arts Center and engage with the community.

Tilbury also recognized outgoing trustees Merritt Dyke, Dale Ronnel, Ashley Merriman and Patrick O’Sullivan, along with outgoing ex-officio officers Heather Wardle, Shantea Nelson and Jim Gorman. He also introduced incoming trustees Le’Kita Brown, Khayyam M. Eddings, Cathy Mayton and Larry Middleton and incoming ex-officio officers Melanie Buchanan, Ruby Ben and Paul Bash.

Edgar Degas’ Trois danseuses nues (Three Nude Dancers) was on view at the Musée d’Orsay in Paris and the National Gallery of Art in Washington, D.C. this year.
Featured: Edgar Hilaire Germain Degas, French (Paris, France, 1834 – 1917, Paris, France), Trois danseuses nues (Three Nude Dancers), circa 1903, charcoal on paper, 30 3/4 x 25 9/16 inches, Arkansas Arts Center Foundation Collection: Purchase, Fred W. Allsopp Memorial Acquisition Fund. 1983.010.002

AAC Foundation Chair and Capital Campaign co-chair Warren Stephens recognized the service of the outgoing Foundation Chair Bobby Tucker and noted that works from the Arkansas Arts Center Foundation Collection traveled far and wide this year – a drawing by Edgar Degas was featured at the Musée d’Orsay in Paris and the National Gallery of Art in Washington, D.C. Stephens also discussed the Foundation’s ongoing efforts to conserve collection works, making it possible to show the works in the new Arkansas Arts Center while preserving them for the enjoyment of future generations.

“On behalf of the Foundation Members, I would like to personally thank all of the annual donors and members who support the Arts Center,” Stephens said. “Your support helps preserve the endowment and allows for future growth.”

Building Committee Chair and Capital Campaign co-chair Harriet Stephens provided an update on the progress on the new Arkansas Arts Center in MacArthur Park. Despite the many challenges presented by Covid-19 and weather this summer, construction continues, she said. The project, which is has employed the services of more than 50 Arkansas companies, also serves to boost the Central Arkansas economy amidst a global pandemic.

The Capital Campaign continues on schedule, Stephens reported, having raised $122.7 million of its $128 million goal. The campaign will also provide transition and opening support, while strengthening the Arkansas Arts Center Foundation endowment, yielding support for operations, exhibitions, acquisitions, and education and outreach programming in the new building.

“The new Arts Center is more than a building,” Stephens said. “It is an investment in the quality of life of everyone in Little Rock. When we open, the Arts Center will be an economic driver that promotes tourism and raises the profile of our city.”

Stephens also provided a construction update on the new Arkansas Arts Center. Noting that construction is progressing rapidly, Stephens walked through some of the key spaces in the building – the spine drawing an axis through the building and opening up in a blossom toward downtown Little Rock at the north and MacArthur Park at the south, the glass-enclosed Cultural Living Room, the spacious galleries, state-of-the-art theater and lecture hall, art studios equipped to teach drawing, painting, ceramics, printmaking, wood working and more, and six acres of the landscaping around the building.

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.

Executive Director Victoria Ramirez outlined the milestones reached for the Arkansas Arts Center over the past year.

“This has been a year unlike any other in the Arts Center’s history – even before we began to grapple with the challenges of a global pandemic,” Ramirez said. “I would like to commend the Arkansas Arts Center board, staff, members and supporters on their tenacity, creativity and innovation in continuing to build an Arts Center that is a treasure for our community and region.”

This year, the Arkansas Arts Center moved out of the old MacArthur Park building – the oldest parts of which had been in use for more than 80 years – relocating to the Riverdale Shopping Center for two years while the new Arkansas Arts Centers is under construction. The temporary location – about three miles from MacArthur Park – was renovated to include studio space for art classes, design and rehearsal space for performing arts, and fully-stocked shop, as well as flexible spaces for staff, facilities storage and educational programs.

While moving to Riverdale, the Arkansas Arts Center invested in partnerships with cultural organizations throughout the community, state and world. The Arkansas Arts Center partnered with the Central Arkansas Library System, building deeper connections between the two Central Arkansas cultural institutions. More than 100 works from the Arkansas Arts Center’s extensive collection of contemporary craft objects were on view at 15 CALS locations, with each installation carefully curated to the environment, history and mission of each library branch. Educational programs – for young people and adults – were hosted at neighborhood libraries.

Works from the Arkansas Arts Center Foundation Collection were loaned to museums and arts institutions around the world – from Paris, France to Washington, D.C., Cleveland, Ohio to Columbia, SC, and Jonesboro to Pine Bluff, Ark.

The Arkansas Arts Center partnered with Historic Arkansas Museum in downtown Little Rock and Thea Foundation, ACANSA Gallery and the Argenta Branch of the William F. Laman Library in the Argenta Arts District in North Little Rock to host the 62nd Annual Delta Exhibition. Expanding the Delta Exhibition out into the community was part of the Arts Center’s commitment to continuing to provide accessible arts experiences while the MacArthur Park building is under construction.

Back in the 15,000 square-foot Museum School studios in the Arkansas Arts Center’s temporary Riverdale location, more than 1,500 students took classes in painting, drawing, ceramics, printmaking, metals, glass, jewelry and woodworking.

On October 1, 2019, the Arkansas Arts Center broke ground on the reimagined Arkansas Arts Center designed by Studio Gang and SCAPE. At the event, Capital Campaign co-chair Harriet Stephens announced that the campaign had raised more than $122.7 million of its $128 million goal. Studio Gang Founder and Principal Jeanne Gang and SCAPE Founder and Principal Kate Orff spoke at the event, along with AAC Board of Trustees President Merritt Dyke, and Little Rock Mayor Frank Scott, Jr.

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

With construction officially underway on the new building, the Arts Center launched 22&You, a special membership program for those committed to maintaining their memberships through the opening of the new Arkansas Arts Center in 2022. More than a third of Arkansas Arts Center members enrolled in the program – and benefits include 22&You member events, a membership card featuring the reimagined Arkansas Arts Center, and a 22&You email newsletter with exclusive updates on the building project and Arts Center happenings.

As COVID-19 swept through the country in mid-March, the Arkansas Arts Center swiftly remade plans to keep the community connected to the arts, offering creative and engaging arts experiences online. “Arkansas Arts Center Amplified” began as a Facebook group to feature artist demonstrations, highlights of artworks from the Arkansas Arts Center Foundation Collection, Children’s Theatre performances and episodes of “Our Work Continues,” an original web series developed by the center. Within a few weeks, more than 1,000 people joined the group – and Arkansas Arts Center Amplified grew to encompass an innovative slate of virtual programming, including digital exhibitions, online classes and virtual events. Since March, Amplified programs have reached more than 83,000 people in Arkansas and beyond.

In the Museum School, a team of creative artists and instructors reinvented their classes to be taught via Zoom. The virtual art-making and learning opportunities they created included the business of art, color theory, found-object sculpture, figure drawing, art and social justice, ceramics, theatre for youth and adults and more. Virtual classes opened new learning opportunities for students – instructors were able to use works from the Arkansas Arts Center Foundation Collection, explore new digital communities for students, and illustrate new artistic techniques.

Online classes also made an impact outside of Central Arkansas – students joined classes from all over the country to learn from the expertise and experience of Arkansas Arts Center instructors. Students from California, Colorado, Louisiana, Massachusetts, Mississippi, Tennessee and Washington participated in online Museum School classes.

The Arkansas Arts Center developed and hosted two virtual exhibitions, expanding access to two of the Arts Center’s most popular exhibitions. The 59th Young Arkansas Artists Exhibition showcased 65 artworks by elementary and secondary students from across Arkansas. The exhibition was viewed by visitors from 71 cities and towns throughout Arkansas.

Elevating artistic voices from the American South and beyond, the 62nd Annual Delta Exhibition featured 63 artworks addressing identity, place, history, heritage and power. The Delta was organized by the Arkansas Arts Center in collaboration with Historic Arkansas Museum, Thea Foundation, ACANSA Gallery and the Argenta Branch of the William F. Laman Library – and partner organization was able to curate a selection of works from the exhibition exploring a theme related to the mission of their institution. Visitors from 40 states and Washington, D.C. – as well as 16 countries around the world – viewed the virtual 62nd Annual Delta Exhibition. Events around the Delta also allowed the Arts Center to expand its reach. Virtually gallery talks and studio tours featured artists living and working across the country – from New York to North Carolina to Arkansas.

Virtual programming through Arkansas Arts Center Amplified is also scheduled to continue this fall, Ramirez reported, providing accessible arts programming to people throughout Arkansas and beyond.

Michael Mayton

“Today’s Annual Meeting celebrates a year unlike any other,” Ramirez said. “It was a year of unexpected challenges and a year that looks to the future. But, as we plan for the future, we always consider the past and our institution’s legacy in our community and state. The truth is – as forward as we might be looking – it is our history and traditions that brought us this point.”

Ramirez also presented the “Winthrop Rockefeller Memorial Award” to Michael Mayton. 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 –experts in public service through the arts.

Arkansas Arts Center programs are supported in part by: Arkansas Arts Center Foundation; City of Little Rock; City of North Little Rock; Little Rock Convention and Visitors Bureau; and the Arkansas Arts Council, a division of Arkansas Heritage, and the National Endowment for the Arts.

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Enigmatic Creatures

Author: Arkansas Arts CenterFiled under: Collection, Delta 62, Delta Exhibition, Exhibitions, Museum, Voices of the Delta

Arkansas artist and 62nd Annual Delta Exhibition Grand Award winner Aaron Calvert’s ceramic figures are decorated with symbols of the things he can’t shake from his mind

Rocket Rabbit
Aaron Calvert, Rocket Rabbit, 2020, stoneware, underglaze, gold ceramic enamel, 19 x 12 x 9 inches

Artist Aaron Calvert’s brightly decorated ceramic figures sit on a shelf in his studio. The wild animals – bears, rabbits, ducks, fish, squirrels – are tucked tightly together. 

“Because of the color and the imagery,” Calvert said, “they flatten out and you lose track of where one begins and the next one – and the last one ends.”

They’re all part of Calvert’s Brain Rattles series. “Brain Rattles – meaning something that enters my consciousness and that I can’t really get rid of,” Calvert said. “They just gnaw on me, and I eventually put them on there. And for some reason, once I get them on there, I feel like they’re kind of gone. It leaves me for a bit. I don’t have to keep thinking about it.”

There are about 20 ceramic animals in the series – including Rocket Rabbit, which is featured in the 62nd Annual Delta Exhibition. Like all the Brain Rattles, the hand-built ceramic rabbit is brushed with bright underglaze patterns, symbols and doodles. The exhibition’s guest juror, Stefanie Fedor, selected Rocket Rabbit as the $2,500 Grand Award winning work. An earlier Brain Rattle, Always Facing South Bear, was shown in the 60th Annual Delta Exhibition in 2018 before being acquired into the Arkansas Arts Center Foundation Collection. 

Calvert’s simplified animal forms are impeccable – but it’s the bright colors of the surface decoration that catch the eye. Calvert sketches on paper – he has stacks of pages and pages of drawings – before transferring them onto clay surfaces. The doodles come from everywhere – headlines or stories or moments of life will spark curiosity about the visual manifestation of an idea. 

“Sometimes they’re just mundane things,” he said. “On the Always Facing South Bear, there’s a frying pan with some bacon in it. It really means nothing – besides a frying pan with bacon in it.”

Always Facing South Bear by Aaron Calvert
Aaron Calvert, American (Medina, Ohio, 1973 – ), Always Facing South Bear, 2017, glazed stoneware, 40 x 23 x 13 inches, Arkansas Arts Center Foundation Collection: Purchase. 2018.013

There are patterns and constellations and morse code. There’s political commentary and images ripped from headlines. But on the same work, a viewer will find deeply personal things – a beach ball in memory of his late cousin and a drawing of a model rocket built with his daughter.  

“I’ll just mash it all together,” he said.

The chaotic exteriors of these works are unknowable. They are packed with signs and symbols  – and Calvert doesn’t always like to explain what he meant with every individual detail. It’s often best, he says, to let viewers puzzle their way through the decoration on their own. 

But the colorful drawings on the exterior of the clay surfaces aren’t the only enigmatic element of the Brain Rattles. To create eyes for his animals, Calvert carves holes – perfectly round – in the clay skin of the figure.

“Clay usually isn’t something that we look through,” he said. “It’s usually just solid – or appears to be solid.”

Rocket Rabbit and Always Facing South Bear’s eyes draw the viewer into the figure’s dark interior. If the eyes are the window to the soul, the souls of Calvert’s works are infinitely more unknowable than their deliriously patterned exteriors. 

Rocket Rabbit by Aaron Calvert
Aaron Calvert, Rocket Rabbit, 2020, stoneware, underglaze, gold ceramic enamel, 19 x 12 x 9 inches

The skin of Calvert’s Brain Rattles are confounding in their cacophony of symbols and patterns and color and noise. But it’s in the unknowable depths behind their eyes that we, as viewers, find a true mystery.

– Maria Davison, Communications Manager

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Arkansas Arts Center awarded federal IMLS grant

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

$203,000 grant will support care of Arkansas Arts Center Foundation Collection works

The Arkansas Arts Center was awarded a grant from the Institute of Museum and Library Services to support the stewardship of the Arkansas Arts Center’s 14,000 works of international art.

IMLS awarded the $203,032 grant to the Arkansas Arts Center to support the complete inventory of the Arkansas Arts Center Foundation Collection as well as the rehousing of both two- and three-dimensional works to ensure their preservation. The Arkansas Arts Center was one of 109 institutions awarded grants by the competitive Museums for America program this year – and the only Arkansas organization to receive a grant.  

“This grant will help the Arkansas Arts Center improve the longevity of its collection so it can continue to support education, engagement and enrichment of Arkansans well into the future,” U.S. Senator John Boozman said. “IMLS receives numerous applications for this competitive grant program, and I am proud of this Arkansas organization for its efforts to better serve the community.”

Through the redevelopment of behind-the-scenes collections systems, this grant will allow the Arkansas Arts Center to improve all aspects of its work, from exhibitions and educational programs to studio classes and community engagement. With richer interpretation capabilities and improved exhibition development capacity, the Arts Center will be better situated to create innovative and engaging arts experiences for visitors to its new building, scheduled to open in 2022.

With the support of the IMLS grant, the Arkansas Arts Center will also improve accuracy in identification and organization of the collection, collections research processes, and systems for loaning artworks. It will also allow for the rehousing of artworks using acid-free materials in line with best practices for collections preservation.

“This grant allows us to accomplish behind-the-scenes collection development work that is absolutely critical during this time before we move into the new Arkansas Arts Center,” Executive Director Victoria Ramirez said. “A remarkable collection of art is entrusted to our care, and it is our responsibility to ensure that it is available for the enjoyment of our community now and for generations to come.”

The Arkansas Arts Center Foundation Collection includes more than 14,000 works of international art, with particular specialties in drawing and contemporary craft. The collection has grown over the years – and will continue to grow – through strategic purchases of artworks as well as generous gifts from Arkansans as well as collectors and estates around the world.

The Arkansas Arts Center’s project is one of 109 grants awarded by Museums for America, the IMLS’s largest discretionary grant program for museums. Museums for America supports projects that strengthen the ability of an individual museum to serve its public.

About the Institute of Museum and Library Services
The Institute of Museum and Library Services is the primary source of federal support for the nation’s libraries and museums. We advance, support, and empower America’s museums, libraries, and related organizations through grantmaking, research, and policy development. Our vision is a nation where museums and libraries work together to transform the lives of individuals and communities. To learn more, visit www.imls.gov and follow us on Facebook and Twitter.

Arkansas Arts Center programs are supported in part by: Arkansas Arts Center Foundation; City of Little Rock; City of North Little Rock; Little Rock Convention and Visitors Bureau; and the Arkansas Arts Council, a division of Arkansas Heritage, and the National Endowment for the Arts.

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Arkansas Arts Center collaborates with Arkansas PBS

Author: Arkansas Arts CenterFiled under: Children's Theatre, Community, Education, Youth & Family

Arts Center theater staff lend their skills to the small screen to create Blueberry’s Clubhouse

The Arkansas Arts Center is partnering with Arkansas PBS to create Blueberry’s Clubhouse, an original series for young viewers and families airing on Arkansas PBS through August 14.

The series follows Blueberry, a curious puppet guide to engaging and insightful activities for young Arkansans. Blueberry and friends explore the stories, animals and laughs found in The Natural State – including visits to the Museum of Discovery, Little Rock Zoo, Central Arkansas Library System, Arkansas State Parks and many other Arkansas destinations.

Blueberry’s Clubhouse is part of the Arkansas Arts Center’s ongoing commitment to reaching across our community to offer artistic experiences that speak to young people and families,” said Katie Campbell, Arkansas Arts Center Children’s Theatre and Performing Arts Director. “Families will find that the challenges Blueberry and her friends face throughout the series reflect some of their own experiences. The show can help viewers navigate the uncertainty and disappointment we all face during this time – and learn to be adaptable regardless of what comes next.”

In the show’s four episodes, Blueberry finds her plans changing – storm clouds threaten an outdoor birthday party, her pet caterpillar goes missing, and she embarks on an adventure into the great outdoors thwarted by her camp counselor. In the final episode, Blueberry hosts a talent show featuring talented young people across the state.

Design drawing for the Blueberry puppet

The Arkansas Arts Center’s theater staff have lent their skills in acting, puppetry, set design and fabrication to create television magic on Blueberry’s Clubhouse. In the show, Blueberry is voiced by Production Stage Manager Rivka Kuperman and manipulated by Kuperman with assistance from Lighting Designer Mike Stacks. Blueberry and other puppets featured in the show are designed by Costume Designer Erin Larkin. The show’s summer camp clubhouse set is designed and built by Stacks and Technical Director Frank Mott.

Blueberry’s Clubhouse showcases the skill and talent of the Arkansas Arts Center staff as they translate live theatre into a television show to reach families all across the state,” Executive Director Victoria Ramirez said. “Especially during these challenging times, we are proud to partner with Arkansas PBS to reach a broad audience of Arkansas families with art that can aid in growth and learning. Blueberry’s Clubhouse truly encapsulates the mission of the Arkansas Arts Center – that everyone, regardless of circumstance, deserves access to the arts.”

Arkansas PBS is Arkansas’s only statewide public media network, which enhances lives by providing lifelong learning opportunities for people from all walks of life. Arkansas PBS delivers daily, essential, local, award-winning productions and classic, trusted PBS programs aimed at sharing Arkansas and the world with viewers through multiple digital platforms, including on-demand services and YouTube TV, and the distinct channels Arkansas PBS, Arkansas PBS Create, Arkansas PBS KIDS, Arkansas PBS WORLD and Arkansas PBS AIRS on SAP. Members with Arkansas PBS Passport have extended on-demand access to a rich library of public television programming. Arkansas PBS depends on the generosity of Arkansans and the State of Arkansas to continue offering quality programming. Additional information is available at myarkansaspbs.org. Arkansas PBS is broadcast on KETS (Little Rock), KEMV (Mountain View), KETG (Arkadelphia), KAFT (Fayetteville), KTEJ (Jonesboro) and KETZ (El Dorado).

The Arkansas Arts Center Children’s Theatre is presented by Arkansas BlueCross BlueShield; supported by The Shubert Foundation; Dr. Loren Bartole, ‘Family Foot Care’; Centennial Bank; Cindy and Greg Feltus; Diane Suitt Gilleland; Target; U.S. Bank Foundation; Weyerhaeuser Giving Fund; Arvest Bank; and Bank of America. Children’s Theatre on Tour at Arkansas Children’s Hospital is supported by The Johnny Heflin Memorial Endowment Fund for Children.

Arkansas Arts Center programs are supported in part by: Arkansas Arts Center Foundation; City of Little Rock; City of North Little Rock; Little Rock Convention and Visitors Bureau; and the Arkansas Arts Council, a division of Arkansas Heritage, and the National Endowment for the Arts.

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Arkansas Arts Center project boosts Little Rock economy

Author: Arkansas Arts CenterFiled under: Building

Tags: , , , ,

MacArthur Park construction work includes more than 50 Arkansas companies

Daytime view of the Arkansas Arts Center's new north entrance
Daytime view from Crescent Drive of the Arkansas Arts Center’s new north entrance, featuring the 1937 Museum of Fine Arts Façade, and, above, a gathering space with views of downtown Little Rock. Image courtesy of Studio Gang and SCAPE.

Construction on the new Arkansas Arts Center in MacArthur Park continues on schedule, despite the challenges posed by a global pandemic, boosting the Central Arkansas economy in a challenging time.  

During these uncertain and challenging times, this construction project is a remarkable success story for our community and our state. Due to the support of the City of Little Rock and private donors, we are spending approximately $4.5 million a month at the jobsite,” said Warren Stephens, AAC Foundation Chair and Capital Campaign co-chair. “We are making every effort to involve local companies and suppliers in this remarkable project. This Arts Center is for the community and built by the community, and we’re committed to constructing this new facility with the talents and expertise of Arkansas workers and companies.” 

At the downtown Little Rock jobsite, which is managed by Arkansas construction companies Nabholz and Doyne along with Chicago-based Pepper Construction, nearly 150 people are working daily in various aspects of construction. The project is also currently employing the expertise of more than 50 Arkansas companies in subcontracted services – from concrete and foundations to elevators, doors and flooring, as well on-site office and storage space is provided by Little Rock-based Hugg & Hall Mobile Storage and fencing by Little Rock-based Fence World.

This expansion of the Arkansas Arts Center is one of the most significant construction projects currently underway in the state of Arkansas,” Nabholz president Jake Nabholz said. “A project of this magnitude helps stabilize the state’s construction community, especially during these uncertain times. Close to 90% of the subcontractors and suppliers involved in this expansion are Arkansas-based, meaning that the majority of building funds from this project will be poured back into the state’s economy.”

Arkansas companies are integrated into every aspect of the construction. Demolition and excavation on the site was completed earlier this year by Rogers & Dillon Demolition & Excavating – based in Mayflower, Ark. Construction on the steel structure for the two-story gallery and collections space is underway with steel sourced by WW/AFCO, based in Little Rock, and C & F Steel Erectors, based in Benton, Ark. The original 1937 façade of the Museum of Fine Arts has been revealed as the new north entrance, and restoration work on the limestone façade will begin this fall. Inside the 1937 building, a new sleek glass balcony marries the historic building into the contemporary design of the newer spaces. Glass for these balconies as well as for the glass-enclosed gathering space at the north entrance – will be sourced by Mabelvale, Ark.-based Glass Erectors, Inc.

The concrete blossom roofline – a key element of the building’s architecture – will create a connective axis through the building. To create this complex and innovative feature, each unique piece of the blossom’s geometry is poured and cured in a custom mold. To date, 2,700 cubic yards of concrete have been poured for the building – much of it provided by Little Rock-based Bass Commercial Concrete.

At the south end of the site, structural modifications in the art school are also underway to expand the number of studios and include a gallery for displaying student artwork. New elevator shafts are being placed by Little Rock-based Otis Elevator Company. Significant updates to the theater space will improve the efficiency while also bringing state-of-the-art features into the space to allow for a wide variety of performing arts ventures.

Mechanical improvements – by Action Mechanical, Inc., based in Barling, Ark. and Middleton Heat & Air, based in Bryant, Ark. – throughout the space will result in a building that is significantly more energy efficiency while also providing appropriate and stable atmospheric conditions to house the Arkansas Arts Center Foundation Collection, which includes 14,000 works of art from around the world.

“The Arkansas Arts Center is one of the largest and most complex projects I’ve directed due to the integration of a one-of-a-kind custom addition as well as extensive renovations of the existing buildings and integrating new mechanical systems throughout the facility,” Pepper Project Executive Anthony Alleman said. “Our team shares the Arkansas Arts Center’s commitment to hire local contractors to complete this historic project.  Along with having an immediate impact on the local economy, the monumental project will attract people from throughout the region to visit the Arkansas Arts Center and Little Rock for decades to come.”

Arkansas Arts Center Gallery view
View of the Arkansas Arts Center’s expansion, which connects improved spaces for exhibition with new public spaces such as the glass-enclosed gathering space at the north and a double-height atrium to the south. State-of-the-art Galleries showcase the Arkansas Arts Center’s world-class permanent collection of local, national, and international art, and house special exhibitions. The glass-enclosed space to the north will host for casual gatherings as well as elevated events. Image courtesy of Studio Gang.

As construction continues, more Arkansas-based subcontractors will be employed on the project: Custom Millwork; Covington Roofing; Roberts-McNutt; Royal Overhead Door; PC Hardware; Oaks Brothers, Inc.; White River Flooring; McCormick Industrial Abatement Services’ and Smith Underground.

At the end of May, the construction spend on the project had reached $20.2 million, with another $3.5 million projected to be spent throughout June.

The Arkansas Arts Center project is being realized through a public-private partnership, with a $31 million commitment from the City of Little Rock, funded through a hotel-tax revenue bond. Contributions from generous private donors have more than tripled the public commitment – and fundraising is ongoing.

In October 2019, capital campaign co-chairs Harriet and Warren Stephens announced that they had raised more than $122.7 million toward a $128 million goal. The campaign will also provide transition and opening support, while also strengthening the Arkansas Arts Center Foundation endowment, yielding support for operations, exhibitions, acquisitions, and education and outreach programming in the new building – meaning that the boost to the Central Arkansas economy from the Arts Center’s project will continue far beyond the end of construction on the physical building.

“With every decision we make about this project, we’re considering two critical things: First, what is the optimum environment for looking, making and enjoying art? Second, how do we create the most inspiring spaces for all visitors?” Executive Director Victoria Ramirez said. “With careful planning and employing the expertise of so many Arkansas companies, the Arkansas Arts Center that opens in 2022 will celebrate the arts and celebrate our community in a space that’s welcoming, inclusive and inspiring.” 

Upon its reopening in 2022, the new Arkansas Arts Center will be a hub of activity. Exhibitions – as well as the architecture itself – will be a major tourist draw. Art classes, educational programs and performing arts events will bring visitors from communities far and wide to downtown Little Rock. Engaging events, a world-class restaurant, stunning landscaping, and other amenities will also draw visitors to MacArthur Park.

Designed by renowned architecture firm Studio Gang and landscape architecture firm SCAPE, the new building’s distinctive architectural identity signifies the Arts Center’s role as a cultural beacon for the future of Arkansas while celebrating the institution’s proud legacy. Scheduled to open in 2022, the project will strengthen the Arkansas Arts Center as the region’s leading visual and performing arts institution.

Arkansas Arts Center programs are supported in part by: Arkansas Arts Center Foundation; City of Little Rock; City of North Little Rock; Little Rock Convention and Visitors Bureau; and the Arkansas Arts Council, a division of Arkansas Heritage, and the National Endowment for the Arts.

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From the Juror

Author: Arkansas Arts CenterFiled under: Delta 62, Delta Exhibition, Exhibitions, Museum, Voices of the Delta

Guest Juror Stefanie Fedor reflects on the works selected for the 62nd Annual Delta Exhibition

Mildred West, Rooftop, Havana, 2019, photography 11 x 17 inches

The world is a very different place today than it was when I was invited to jury the 62nd Annual Delta Exhibition back in 2019. When the time came to review the works submitted by the 348 artists with ties to Arkansas and the six surrounding states that comprise the Delta region, we were all only beginning to understand the personal, professional, and societal impacts of social distancing through a global pandemic. It is necessary I acknowledge this, because I believe art and the work of artists carry additional weight and meaning in the framework of this extraordinary moment—the works in this exhibition notwithstanding.

When it came time to make my selections for “The Delta,” I took in all the considerations I normally would – quality of the work and a strong artistic point of view – but I also had additional things to take into account. I knew that the exhibition and these works would not get placed in a gallery and would not be viewed amongst an audience sharing their own ideas and feedback. Instead they needed to stand alone and also be reflective of this – hopefully – rare point in time.

Wade Hampton, The Family, 2019, oil on wood, 24 x 36 inches

One of the great joys of curating and jurying exhibitions comes when you are finally in front of the actual artworks and themes and conversations naturally emerge. Despite these works not coming together physically in the galleries, themes did appear—haunted landscapes and sites with the traces of human touch, portraits in isolation, and ecological and material concerns course through many of the works in this exhibition. While some of these themes may seem somber, I believe they also present the opportunity for hope. The chance to look at an artwork and see a reflection of ourselves, our emotional state of being, and our collective concerns says we are connected.

Stefanie Fedor, Executive Director, Visual Arts Center of Richmond

Art has the capacity for both the political and the personal and at this moment to look at an image and feel a kinship is a source of comfort and optimism. Very much like another great Delta tradition, the Blues. In a foreword for the program of the 1964 Berlin Jazz Festival, Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. wrote: “The Blues tell the story of life’s difficulties, and if you think for a moment, you will realize that they take the hardest realities of life and put them into music, only to come out with some new hope or sense of triumph.” In times of change and uncertainty we look to, and will look back on, the work of contemporary artists of the period to make meaning of and to write the stories of that time. The 63 artists chosen for the 62nd Annual Delta Exhibition are doing just that, looking deeply at the world around them, reflecting it back to us, creating a record and letting us feel seen and counted. It has been a tremendous honor to have been invited by the Arkansas Arts Center to jury the 62nd Annual Delta Exhibition, I remain grateful for the opportunity to be introduced to the works of these talented artists.

— Stefanie Fedor, Executive Director, Visual Arts Center of Richmond

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