Arkansas Arts Center Collection on View

Author: Arkansas Arts CenterFiled under: Collection, Community, Exhibitions, Museum

From Paris, France to Washington D.C. to Cleveland, Ohio, works from the Arkansas Arts Center Foundation Collection have traveled near and far to be part of exhibitions across the country – and the world. Be sure to check out Contemporary British Studio Ceramics, currently on view at the University of Arkansas at Little Rock and The Mighty Mississippi and Defender, both on view at the Clinton Presidential Center this spring. And if you happen to find yourself in Cleveland or Washington, D.C., be sure to stop in and see Diego Rivera’s Dos Mujeres or Edgar Degas’ Trois danseuses nues. 

Windgate Center of Art + Design, University of Arkansas at Little Rock
January 16 – March 7, 2020

Contemporary British Studio Ceramics from the Arkansas Arts Center Foundation Collection

What is it? 
A broad look at the diversity of 20th century British Studio Ceramics from the Arkansas Arts Center Foundation Collection. The exhibition features both functional wares – bowls and teapots – alongside purely sculptural works – like Gordon Baldwin’s Untitled. 

Why here?
This exhibition is a great learning opportunity for students. The Windgate Center of Art + Design on the University of Arkansas at Little Rock is a “teaching museum” – a resource for art students and the community alike. The exhibition illustrates a rich variety of techniques and forms, ranging from slab-building, hand-building and wheel throwing, to neriage and nerikomi –traditional Japanese methods using “marbleized” clay – to the 17th- and 18th-century “agatewares” of England. 

Why now?
Brad Cushman, gallery director at the Windgate Center, jumped at the opportunity to borrow this collection of ceramic works while the Arts Center’s building is under construction. The selection currently on view is only half of the works on loan to the Windgate Center – a second exhibition of studio ceramics from the AAC collection will be on view in the fall.

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

Degas at the Opera

National Gallery of Art, Washington, D.C. 
March 1 – July 5, 2020

What is it?
Degas at the Opera presents an exploration of the famed French Impressionist’s love for the opera as it was depicted throughout his career. Degas’ Trois danseuses nues (Three Nude Dancers), a charcoal drawing from the Arkansas Arts Center Foundation Collection is featured in the exhibition. Made by Degas in the first few years of the 20th century, the drawing shows three dancers pausing for a moment as one leans down to adjust the ribbon on her shoe. 

Why here? 
The curators of Degas at the Opera were particularly interested in the Arts Center’s drawing because of its relationship to another Degas drawing in the Musée d’Orsay’s collection. The two drawings, presented side-by-side in the exhibition, depict the same group of dancers with one figure reaching down to adjust her ballet shoe. They’re both charcoal sketches – and together, they show how the artist was working out a composition before adding costumes, color and other details. 

Why now?
Degas at the Opera was organized by the Musée d’Orsay in Paris to celebrate the 350th anniversary of the Paris Opera. The exhibition was on view in Paris from last fall and continues its tour at the National Gallery of Art in Washington, D.C. this spring. 

Height x Width x Depth: Sculpture from the Arkansas Arts Center Foundation Collection

Bradbury Art Museum, Arkansas State University, Jonesboro, Arkansas

Courtesy of Hillary Brooks, Bradbury Art Museum

What is it?
Height x Width x Depth features 15 large-scale sculptural works from the Arkansas Arts Center Foundation Collection. From Louise Nevelson’s monochromatic wood construction, Tide Garden IV, to Auguste Rodin’s bronze Bust of Young Balzac to ceramicist Jun Kaneko’s hand-built Untitled (Oval), the exhibition represents the breadth of sculptural works found in the Arts Center’s collection. The exhibition’s title, Height x Width x Depth, references not only the physicality of the objects on view but also the delightful depth of the Arts Center’s collection. 

Why here?
Curator Les Christensen sought an opportunity to create a cohesive exhibition that would also represent as many basic materials and methods in three-dimensional art as possible for the on-campus museum. And Height x Width x Depth does just that – combining additive, subtractive and constructive processes and figurative and abstract forms to create a broad look at modern and contemporary sculpture.

Why now?
The logistics of loaning and installing large-scale sculptural works can be challenging – making short-term loans less practical. With an extended loan period (Height x Width x Depth will be on view at the Bradbury Art Museum for two years), this was the perfect opportunity for these works to spend some time in Jonesboro. 

The Mighty Mississippi: HeART and Soul of the Southern Delta

Carroll Cloar, American, (Earle, Arkansas, 1913 – 1993, Memphis, Tennessee), The Big Cypress, 1964, casein tempera on board, 16 x 11 inches, Arkansas Arts Center Foundation Collection: Gift of Mr. and Mrs. John Pope Matthews. 1993.061.003

Clinton Presidential Center, Little Rock, Arkansas
December 14, 2019 – March 22, 2020 

What is it?
The Mighty Mississippi: HeART and Soul of the Southern Delta presents elements of culture from the last 120 years with roots in Arkansas, Mississippi and Louisiana. The exhibition features a selection of visual art that brings visitors face-to-face with the privilege and poverty that define life in the Southern Delta, including 12 paintings, drawings, photographs and craft objects from the Arkansas Arts Center Foundation Collection. 

Why here?
The Mighty Mississippi is part of the Clinton Presidential Center’s Fusion: Arts and Humanities Arkansas series which explores heritage, culture and human achievement by weaving the arts and humanities together. HeART and Soul of the Southern Delta  is the fourth installment in the series. 

Why now?
The Arkansas Arts Center’s collection includes a variety of works that fit the Fusion theme, The HeART and Soul of the Southern Delta. Works by Carroll Cloar, William E. Davis and Robbie McClaran – among others – explore the history, landscape and people of the Southern Delta and add depth to the Clinton Center’s exploration of history, music and culture in the region. 

Defender

Clinton Presidential Center, Little Rock, Arkansas

David L. Deming, American (Cleveland, Ohio, 1943 – ), Defender, 1986, painted steel, 96 x 48 x 48 inches, Arkansas Arts Center Foundation Collection: Gift of Frank Ribelin. 1989.045

What is it?
Defender, David Deming’s imposing abstract steel sculpture, is on view in the Clinton Presidential Center’s second-floor galleries. Stationed in front of a bank of windows, the sculpture’s heavy limbs appear to struggle to break free from their base and walk across the gallery. 

Why here?
Defender was briefly installed on the White House grounds during the Clinton presidency. In 1995, former Arts Center director Townsend Wolfe curated an exhibition of 20th-century American sculpture to grace the White House grounds. True to its title, Defender stood sentinel near the garden entrance, serving as a sort of protector to the first family and guests.

Why now?
The Arts Center is always looking for ways to build relationships and partnerships with our arts and cultural neighbors in Little Rock and beyond. Installing Defender at the Clinton Center presented an opportunity to show a work from the Arkansas Arts Center Foundation Collection that has a distinct connection to the Clinton Center’s mission.

Dos Mujeres

Cleveland Museum of Art, Cleveland, Ohio

Diego Rivera, Mexican (Guanajuato, Mexico, 1886 – 1957, Mexico City, Mexico), Dos Mujeres (Two Women), 1914, oil on canvas, 77 3/4 x 63 1/2 inches, Arkansas Arts Center Foundation Collection: Gift of Abby Rockefeller Mauzé. 1955.010

What is it?
Diego Rivera’s 1914 cubist masterpiece, Dos Mujeres, is on view at the Cleveland Museum of Art in Cleveland, Ohio. The painting, which came to the Arts Center in 1955, was painted while Rivera was working in Paris and exploring Cubism. It depicts two women in Rivera’s apartment with the Montparnasse rooftops clearly visible through the windows. 

Why here?
The Cleveland Museum of Art has extensive holdings of painting by the Cubists – Pablo Picasso, Georges Braque and Juan Gris, among others. Dos Mujeres was informed by the work of these masters of the movement – and its visit to Cleveland will allow it to spend some time in conversation with these other great works. 

Why now?
The Arts Center’s renovation schedule provided the perfect opportunity for the Cleveland Museum of Art to borrow this exceptional work. In return, the Arts Center will host reciprocal loans from Cleveland’s collection after the new MacArthur Park building opens in 2022. 

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Contemporary craft objects on view at 15 CALS locations

Author: Arkansas Arts CenterFiled under: Collection, Community, Museum, Traveling Exhibitions

On view at Main Library: Viola Frey, American (Lodi, California, 1933 – 2004, Oakland, California), Western Civilization: Processional, 2002, slip-cast and hand-built glazed ceramic, 39 x 75 x 22 inches, Arkansas Arts Center Foundation Collection: Purchase, Tabriz Fund. 2006.021.a–h

Works from the Arkansas Arts Center’s exceptional collection of contemporary craft objects are on view at 15 Central Arkansas Library System Locations. Carefully selected for their 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 craft collection.

This partnership between between the Arkansas Arts Center and the Central Arkansas Library System is designed to build long-term creative connections between the two Central Arkansas cultural organizations.

“Between one and three percent of a museum’s collection is on view at any given time,” said Brian J. Lang, Chief Curator and Windgate Foundation Curator of Contemporary Craft. “This partnership with CALS allows us to display nearly 10 percent of our 1,500-object craft collection.”

What is Contemporary Craft?
Have you ever wondered what we mean when we talk about contemporary craft? The word “craft” historically refers to objects made from traditional materials – ceramic, glass, fiber, metal, and wood – including both functional wares and sculptural objects. Whatever their use, all of these objects invite us to consider texture, form, function as well as the role of the maker and the processes used to create the object. The Arts Center’s contemporary craft collection, in particular, focuses on works that represent exemplary craftsmanship or a unique approach to materials.

At Main Library in downtown Little Rock, visitors will find large-scale ceramic sculptures installed throughout the building, principally in elevator lobby areas and on the main floor.

On view at Roberts Library: Wendy Maruyama, American (La Junta, Colorado, 1952 – ), Rohwer (The Tag Project), 2011, tea- and coffee-stained cut paper, ink, string, thread, and metal, 144 x 24 inches, Arkansas Arts Center Foundation Collection: Gift of the artist. 2017.001.001

At Bobby L. Roberts Library of Arkansas History & Art, two sculptures from Wendy Maruyama’s The Tag Project honor Japanese Americans sent to Arkansas internment camps during World War II. The works, titled Rohwer (The Tag Project) and Jerome (The Tag Project), are part of a series of works representing each of the ten American internment camps. The sculptures are made of tea- and coffee-stained reproduction tags, each bearing the name and unique number of people interned at Rohwer and Jerome in Arkansas.

A selection of whimsical toys from past Toys Designed by Artists exhibitions is on view at Hillary Rodham Clinton Children’s Library and Learning Center. At the base of the grand stair, visitors will also find Judy Onofrio’s Just Pretending. Fondly known as “The Mermaid,” Onofrio’s found-object assemblage sculpture is a favorite of Arts Center visitors.

On view at Hillary Rodham Clinton Children’s Library and Learning Center: Judy Onofrio, American (New London, Connecticut, 1939 – ), Just Pretending, 1995, mixed media, assembled found objects, 86 x 50 x 32 inches, Arkansas Arts Center Foundation Collection: Purchased with a gift from the Roy and Christine Sturgis Charitable and Educational Trust, Barry B. Findley and Katie Speer, Trustees. 1996.024

Named after the noted women’s rights and integration advocate, Adolphine Fletcher Terry Library features a selection of ceramics made by significant women artists, including Anne Hirondelle, Betty Woodman, Karen Karnes, Laurie Spencer, and Rosemary Fisher.

At Amy Sanders Library in Sherwood, a selection of basketry and fiber works made from repurposed or recycled materials will complement the library’s active STEM education program.

To complement Roosevelt Thompson Library’s robust menu of culinary-themed events (including programs focused on tea), “Teapots at Thompson” features nearly 25 craft teapots in a variety of media.

Surrounded by forest, “A Woodland DEE-Light” at Dee Brown Library features an installation of works made from wood, containing references to wood, as well as ceramics made in wood-fired kilns. Margaret Keelan’s Young Girl with Moths, a ceramic work made to look as if it is carved from wood will be on view at Dee Brown.

At Max Milam Library, located in Perryville’s rich agricultural community, an installation of works in metal is inspired by the weathered metal machinery dotting the rural landscape.

Inspired by the building’s sleek contemporary concrete-and-glass design, the installation at Sid McMath Library features a selection of notable works in glass spanning a century of American studio glass production. Works on view include George Thiewes’ Oval Form, and several examples by Louis Comfort Tiffany.

At the Esther DeWitt Nixon Library, which serves Jacksonville and the Little Rock Air Force Base, visitors will find artwork inspired by the military experience and aviation. Terry Lee Dill’s Homage to J. Smith – World War I Tank depicts an abstracted tank in cast iron and bronze and Larry Page’s Captain Sky Teapot shows a pilot at the helm of an airplane.

On view at Fletcher Library: Jack Earl, American (Uniopolis, Ohio, 1934 – ), D.O.G., 1980, glazed & china painted clay, 16 3/4 x 12 1/2 x 13 3/4 inches, Arkansas Arts Center Foundation Collection: Purchase, Stephens Inc. City Trust Grant. 1986.002

Named for Pulitzer-Prize winning author, John Gould Fletcher Library will host a selection of works that celebrate and illustrate the power of language and the written word. The installation includes Jack Earl’s whimsical ceramic dog wearing glasses that spell D-0-G.

Maumelle Library, located adjacent to Lake Valencia, features an installation titled “Gone Fishin’,” which includes several works with a boating and fishing theme. Among them are Katie Hudnall’s Monster Fishing Kit in wood, metal and glass, and Bill Griffith’s stoneware Boat Form.

At Wrightsville’s Millie Brooks Library, an installation of works made from pine and other natural materials echoes the tall stands of pine trees that surround the building. The installation features a basket made from white oak, coralberry, and waxed linen thread by Arkansas Living Treasure Leon Niehues; a coiled pine needle basket by Neil Prince; and a wall sculpture made from coconut fibers by Romanian artist Ritzi Jacobi.

The Sue Cowan Williams Library, located near Dunbar Garden, will feature garden-themed works. The ceramics on view include floral imagery, fruits, vegetables, birds, and bees, all celebrating the natural abundance of the Earth. Farraday Newsome’s ceramic vases depict garden themes, and Jesse Small’s Flower Ghosts each explore a different floral pattern.

Fitting beautifully into Oley E. Rooker Library’s soaring, light-filled reading room is a monumental ceramic sculpture, Coupling by American artist Patti Warashina.

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Virginia arts center director named guest juror for Arkansas Arts Center Delta Exhibition

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

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Call for Entries opens January 13, new location added to venues

The 61st Annual Delta Exhibition in 2019.

Stefanie Fedor, Executive Director of the Visual Arts Center of Richmond, will serve as juror for the Arkansas Arts Center’s 62nd Annual Delta Exhibition, on view June 19 – August 23, 2020 at four locations in Little Rock and North Little Rock.

As one of the longest-running and most prestigious juried art exhibitions in the region, the Annual Delta Exhibition represents the Arts Center’s commitment to artists living and working in our community today – and to continuing to grow artistic talent in the region. Expanding the Delta Exhibition into the community is part of the Arts Center’s mission to remain vibrant, accessible and community-oriented while the MacArthur Park building is under construction.

The call for entries for the 62nd Annual Delta Exhibition opens January 13. The deadline to enter is March 22, 2020. The call for entries is open to all artists who live in or were born in Arkansas and its border states: Arkansas, Louisiana, Mississippi, Missouri, Oklahoma, Tennessee or Texas.

“The legacy of the Delta Exhibition is an integral part of the Arkansas Arts Center’s past,” Executive Director Victoria Ramirez said. “As the Arts Center looks toward its future, we’re proud to work with partners across our community to continue to showcase art from the region that will educate and inspire.”

The exhibition will be displayed across four locations in downtown Little Rock and North Little Rock. The Argenta Branch of North Little Rock’s Laman Public Library joins the roster of previously announced host venues in North Little Rock. The 62nd Annual Delta Exhibition will open with a lecture by Fedor on June 18 at the Central Arkansas Library System’s Ron Robinson Theater.

Stefanie Fedor, Executive Director, Visual Arts Center of Richmond

“As an expert in contemporary art from outside our region, Ms. Fedor brings a keen and experienced eye to the Delta Exhibition,” Chief Curator Brian J. Lang said. “Undoubtedly, the works she selects for the exhibition will help us see our communities – and our region – in a new light.”

With more than 25 years of experience in visual arts programming, Fedor has helped the Visual Arts Center achieve its mission to celebrate and support the creative life of all people through art-making, exhibitions and community programs. Before joining VisArts, she served as the executive director of the Arlington Arts Center where she directed an artist residency, exhibitions and arts education program supporting emerging artists. During her tenure, Arlington Arts Center expanded its classroom and student capacity, produce an ongoing series of public art projects, and launched a curatorial incubator for emerging curators.

Fedor previously served as assistant director of the American University Museum at the Katzen Arts Center where she presented over 80 exhibitions of contemporary art featuring the work of both emerging and internationally renowned artists. While at AU, Fedor partnered with national and international arts and culture organizations to create a wide range of free public programs focused on contemporary arts and ideas. She has additionally managed and directed exhibitions programs at the Maryland Institute College of Art and New York University. Fedor served on the Board of Directors for ArtTable as the VP of Membership, and has curated and juried multiple exhibitions in Washington D.C., Baltimore and New York. Fedor earned a Bachelor’s degree in studio art from the School of the Art Institute of Chicago and a Master’s in visual arts administration from New York University.

Showcasing artists born in or living in Arkansas and its border states, the Annual Delta Exhibition presents a vision of contemporary art in the American South. Founded in 1958, the exhibition provides a unique snapshot of the Delta region and features work in all media. The exhibition reflects the region’s strong traditions of craftsmanship and observation, combined with an innovative use of materials and an experimental approach to subject matter.

“The Argenta Arts District is thrilled to have been chosen as a partner in the Arkansas Arts Center’s signature event, their Delta Exhibition for 2020,” arts promoter John Gaudin said. “As one of three locations in Argenta, the Laman Library’s Argenta Branch Gallery is a state-of-the-art exhibition space that was designed for just such an occasion.” 

Artworks from the exhibition will also appear at the Historic Arkansas Museum in Little Rock and the Thea Foundation and ACANSA Gallery in the Argenta Arts District in downtown North Little Rock.

 “Historic Arkansas Museum is delighted to serve as a co-host for the Arkansas Arts Center’s 62nd Annual Delta Exhibition,” said Swannee Bennett, Historic Arkansas Museum Director and Chief Curator. “This is a marvelous example of the Arkansas arts community working together to bring together important works by many of the most talented artists working today.”

“Enriching our community with thought-provoking, contemporary art is a top priority for Thea Foundation, and we’re deeply honored to expand our 2020 exhibition offerings by serving as co-host of what we know will be an impactful showcase of Southern talent,” Thea Foundation Executive Director Nick Leopoulos said.

The Call for Entries Opens Monday, January 13. Learn more here.

To be eligible for entry, work must be completed during the last two years and must not have been exhibited previously at the Arkansas Arts Center, Historic Arkansas Museum, ACANSA Gallery, Thea Foundation or Argenta Branch Library. Fedor will select the works to be featured in the exhibition as well as a Grand Award winner and two Delta Award winners. The Contemporaries, an auxiliary membership group of the Arkansas Arts Center, will also select a Contemporaries Award winner.

The 62nd Annual Delta Exhibition is organized by the Arkansas Arts Center in collaboration with Historic Arkansas Museum, Thea Foundation, ACANSA Gallery and the Art Gallery, Argenta Branch of the William F. Laman Library. The exhibition is sponsored by Mrs. Lisenne Rockefeller; Terri and Chuck Erwin; Judy Fletcher, In Memory of John R. Fletcher; Friday, Eldredge & Clark, LLP; JC Thompson Trust; AAC Contemporaries; Bank OZK; Phyllis and Michael Barrier; East Harding Construction; Marion W. Fulk; and Barbara House. The Grand Award is supported by The John William Linn Endowment Fund. The exhibition is supported by the Andre Simon Memorial Trust in memory of everyone who has died of acquired immune deficiency syndrome (AIDS).

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Reimagined Arkansas Arts Center wins Best of Design Award

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

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Award proves transformational power of the new cultural hub for Arkansas

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.

The Arkansas Arts Center’s reimagined MacArthur Park building was named the winner of the 2019 The Architect’s Newspaper Best of Design Awards in the Unbuilt – Cultural category.

Designed by renowned architecture firm Studio Gang, the new building’s distinctive architectural identity signifies the Art 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 model detail. Image courtesy of Studio Gang.

The Architect’s Newspaper Best of Design award honor exceptional architecture, design and building projects throughout Canada, Mexico and the United States. The annual awards also point to trends in the building design.

“Sensitivity and subtlety were at a premium,” The Architect’s Newspaper editors wrote of this year’s awardees. “Winners were chosen for their contextual, tactical approaches rather than big, bombastic ideas.”

Studio Gang’s design for the reimagined Arkansas Arts Center creates where the community can enjoy all the benefits of engaging with the arts. The new building will feature two entrances – the north courtyard entrance features a nod to past in the beautifully preserved 1937 façade of the Museum of Fine Arts. The south entrance opens into MacArthur Park. Prominent glass-enclosed spaces at either entrance welcome visitors into the building from MacArthur Park at the south and downtown Little Rock at the north.

View toward MacArthur Park from the Atrium, which connects the Arkansas Arts Center’s three programmatic pillars: the Museum School, Galleries, and Children’s Theatre. Image courtesy of Studio Gang.

Inside, visitors will find expertly lit galleries to feature the Arts Center’s 14,000-work collection of international art. A full schedule of dynamic special exhibitions will celebrate the artistic history and current work of the Delta region while bringing world-class exhibitions from around the world to Little Rock. The Museum School will feature fully equipped studios for drawing, painting, printmaking, ceramics, glass, wood, and metalsmithing classes for children and adults, along with a gallery space for displaying student work. State-of-the-art main stage and black box theatre spaces will host Children’s Theatre programming, films and performing arts events. The innovative “Living Room” will create space for community and social gatherings, quiet reflection, and everything in between with views of downtown Little Rock. A full-service restaurant will feature indoor and shaded outdoor seating overlooking MacArthur Park. The design also includes a Museum Shop, collections research room, and a lecture hall for public programs.

The project also features a revitalized MacArthur Park landscape, designed by Kate Orff and SCAPE. The landscape, inspired by Little Rock’s unique ecologies, will expand the connections between the building and MacArthur Park through native and sustainable planting and water reclamation. Landscape pathways, a great lawn and open areas will allow for vibrant, outdoor community programming.

Aerial view showing how the reimagined Arkansas Arts Center creates new pathways and connections to MacArthur Park. The design includes a new restaurant with outdoor shaded seating, walking paths, and a great lawn. Over time, a tree canopy will develop, creating a true “Arts Center in a Park.” Image courtesy of Studio Gang and SCAPE.

“The reimagined Arkansas Arts Center will be a place that showcases art that educates, inspires, provokes and beautifies our lives,” Executive Director Victoria Ramirez said. “We imagine this project as one that will chart the future of the arts in Little Rock, and we are honored to see that it is already being recognized as such.”

The transformation of the Arkansas Arts Center into a state-of-the-art facility will be realized through a $128 million special fundraising campaign, Reimagining the Arkansas Arts Center: Campaign for Our Cultural Future. The campaign will also provide transition and opening support, while also strengthening the Arkansas Arts Center Foundation’s endowment, yielding support for operations, exhibitions, acquisitions, and education and outreach programming in the new building. At the October 1 groundbreaking ceremony, capital campaign co-chairs Harriet and Warrant Stephens announced that the campaign has raised more than $122.7 million of its $128 million goal.

Nighttime view from downtown Little Rock of the Arkansas Arts Center’s new north entrance. A new plaza opens the historic 1937 façade onto Crescent Drive. Above, the Cultural Living Room acts as a community gathering and event space. Image courtesy of Studio Gang and SCAPE.

Studio Gang is an architecture and urban design practice headquartered in Chicago, with offices in New York, San Francisco and Paris. Founded and led by MacArthur Fellow Jeanne Gang, Studio Gang’s award-winning work ranges in scale and typology from the 82-story Aqua Tower to the 14-acre Nature Boardwalk at Lincoln Park Zoo, both located in Chicago. Gang has been recognized for a design process that foregrounds the relationship among people and their environments, and is the only architect named to TIME Magazine’s list of the 100 Most Influential People of 2019. Studio Gang is currently designing cultural and civic projects across the Americas, including an expansion to the American Museum of Natural History in New York, a new Center for the University of Chicago in Paris, a new United States Embassy in Brasilia, and a Global Terminal at O’Hare International Airport in Chicago. This is Studio Gang’s first project in Arkansas.

SCAPE, founded by landscape architect and MacArthur Fellow Kate Orff, is a design-driven landscape architecture and urban design studio based in New York. They believe landscape architecture can enable positive change in communities through the creation of regenerative living infrastructure and public landscapes. SCAPE works to integrate natural cycles and systems into environments across all scales, from the urban pocket-park to the regional ecological plan. They do this through diverse forms of landscape architecture – built landscapes, planning frameworks, research, books, and installations – with the ultimate goal of connecting people to their immediate environment and creating dynamic and adaptive landscapes of the future.

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.

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Postcards from the Collection: Degas at the Opera

Author: Arkansas Arts CenterFiled under: Collection, Museum

photo of the author

By Katie Hall
Collections Manager and Head Registrar

Edgar Degas’s Trois danseuses nues from the Arkansas Arts Center Foundation Collection is currently on view in Degas at the Opera, an exploration of the French impressionist’s fondness for the Paris Opera to celebrate its 350th anniversary. Katie traveled with the drawing as a courier on its way to Paris this fall. Here, she shares insights from her international adventure.

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

The Arkansas Arts Center has a world-renowned collection of international art – and museums around the world are often interested in borrowing works from our collection for exhibitions exploring various artists, themes and movements. A few years ago, the Musée d’Orsay in Paris reached out to us about Degas at the Opera, which they were developing in partnership with the National Gallery of Art in Washington, D.C., to mark the 350th anniversary of the Opéra national de Paris. The curators of the exhibition
were interested in borrowing Degas’ Trois danseuses nues (Three Nude Dancers) from our collection. The charcoal drawing, made by Degas in the first few years of the 20th century, shows three dancers pausing for a moment as one leans down to adjust the ribbon on her shoe.

As one of the people at the Arts Center tasked with keeping the collection safe, it’s my responsibility to ensure that the work is fit to travel and that the museum it’s traveling to will maintain safe environmental conditions during the exhibition. For some loans, that even means a member of the Arts Center’s exhibitions team will accompany the work to oversee the transportation, unpacking, and installation of the artwork. With Trois danseuses nues traveling to Paris for Degas at the Opera earlier this fall, I served as the courier.

Our journey began in Dallas, where we caught a plane to Paris along with several other artworks and couriers from American museums bound for the same exhibition.

Because all cargo going on a passenger jet must be screened before departure, I accompanied the crate to a TSA screening facility where it was checked and cleared for shipment. Next, it was on to the cargo warehouse for flight preparation.
While at the cargo warehouse, it was consolidated onto a pallet with three other crates from regional lending institutions. The three other couriers and I watched as the crates were placed on large metal pallet, wrapped in plastic, and then secured by a cargo net. With the pallet registration number in hand, I turned responsibility over to an armed police officer who guarded the pallet until it was loaded onto the plane.
At the gate, I watched the pallet as it was loaded onto the plane. After confirming with the police officer that the cargo door was closed and secured, I boarded the plane. In Paris, the process was repeated, but in reverse. We were met at the gate by our customs broker who waited with us while we watched the pallet offload from the plane. We then traveled to the customs warehouse where the pallet is delivered and unpacked. The crates go through customs, where paperwork is reviewed and details confirmed. Finally the crates are loaded onto a secure, climatized truck.

Arriving in Paris, the work was delivered to the Musée d’Orsay, where it stayed in its crate to acclimate to the environment in the space.

More than 48 hours after leaving Little Rock, the crate was delivered to the Musée d’Orsay and stored onsite until it was ready to be installed.

The next day, I returned to the museum to help unpack and install the artwork among works from the Musée d’Orsay, the Bibliothèque nationale de France and others.

After a day in storage to acclimate to the environment in Paris, we uncrated the drawing, and I examined its condition with a conservator.

The curators of Degas at the Opera were particularly interested in the Arts Center’s drawing because of its relationship to another Degas drawing in the Musée d’Orsay’s collection. The two drawings, presented side-by-side in the exhibition, depict the same group of dancers with one figure reaching down to adjust her ballet shoe.

Trois danseuses nues from the Arkansas Arts Center Foundation Collection (center) is on display between a work from collection of the Bibliothèque nationale de France (left) and a work from the Musée d’Orsay’s collection (right).

They’re both charcoal sketches – the artist was clearly working out a composition before adding costumes color and other details. Seeing these works together, it became clear to me that the Arts Center’s drawing is really a highlight of the exhibition.

While every loan does not require a courier, I travel a lot for my job and I’ve met a lot of museum professionals along the way. People I meet are sometimes surprised to realize the depth and breadth of our collection. I often hear some version of an incredulous “this is in Arkansas? I had no idea!” Seeing it installed at the Musée d’Orsay alongside works from some of the world’s most influential collections, I was excited to see that the Arkansas Arts Center’s collection is making an impact on an international audience.

Degas at the Opera was organized by the Musée d’Orsay and Musée de l’Orangerie, Paris and the National Gallery of Art, Washington, where it will be presented from 1 March to 5 July 2020 on the occasion of the three hundred and fiftieth anniversary of the Paris Opera.

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Delta Exhibition to bridge Arkansas River

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

The 61st Annual Delta Exhibition in 2019.

The Arkansas Arts Center’s 62nd Annual Delta Exhibition will be featured across venues in downtown Little Rock and North Little Rock in summer 2020. A portion of the exhibition’s artworks will appear at Historic Arkansas Museum in Little Rock while other selections are featured at the Thea Foundation and Argenta Gallery in the Argenta Arts District in downtown North Little Rock.  Expanding the Delta Exhibition out into the community is part of the Arts Center’s commitment to remaining vibrant, accessible and community-oriented while its MacArthur Park building is under construction over the next two-and-a-half years.

“We are always looking for opportunities to create strong community partnerships and deepen the community’s engagement with the arts,” Executive Director Victoria Ramirez said. “With this Delta Exhibition, we have an opportunity to bring the art into our communities and to celebrate art made in and about this region.”

Showcasing artists living and working in Arkansas and its border states, the Annual Delta Exhibition presents a vision of contemporary art in the American South. Founded in 1958, the exhibition provides a unique snapshot of the Delta region and features work in all media. The exhibition reflects the region’s strong traditions of craftsmanship and observation, combined with an innovative use of materials and an experimental approach to subject matter. With the Arts Center’s MacArthur Park building undergoing a transformational renovation, Chief Curator Brian Lang began searching for opportunities to bring the beloved Arts Center exhibition into other parts of the community.

“Every year, the Delta Exhibition creates a conversation about place through the art that is featured,” Lang said. “This year, we have the opportunity to add to that conversation – to engage with the Arkansas River and the communities on each side of it.”

The call for entries for the 62nd Annual Delta Exhibition will be open January 13 – March 22, 2020. The exhibition is open to all artists who live in or were born in one of the following states: Arkansas, Louisiana, Mississippi, Missouri, Oklahoma, Tennessee or Texas. All work must be completed during the last two years and must not have been exhibited previously at the Arkansas Arts Center. A guest juror will select the works to be featured in the exhibition as well as the award winners.

The guest juror, exhibition dates, and events for the 62nd Annual Delta Exhibition will be announced at a later date.

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Historic Museum of Fine Arts Façade Revealed

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

 WPA-built façade will be the entrance to the reimagined Arkansas Arts Center

Construction equipment clears rubble from in front of the historic facade.

With construction underway on the Arkansas Arts Center’s MacArthur Park building, a piece of Arkansas history is once again visible from 9th Street. The 1937 façade of the Museum of Fine Arts – the precursor to the Arkansas Arts Center – was uncovered last week as construction crews cleared debris from the construction site.

When the reimagined Arkansas Arts Center opens in 2022, the façade will once again be the entrance to the Arkansas Arts Center, welcoming visitors through the north courtyard. Representing the institution’s proud 80-year legacy, the historic façade will play a prominent role in the MacArthur Park building’s new identity.

“Revealing this important piece of historic architecture is a striking symbol of what we hope to accomplish through a reimaged Arts Center,” Executive Director Victoria Ramirez said. “The Arkansas Arts Center will be the cultural beacon for the region and a source of pride that reflects who we are as a people and who we aspire to be: an Arkansas Arts Center that embraces both our history and our future.”

Beyond revealing the 1937 façade, Studio Gang and SCAPE’s design for the reimagined Arkansas Arts Center lends a new, highly visible architectural identity to the space. Reorganizing and ordering the current program and architectural envelope, Studio Gang has designed a pleated, organic architecture that connects the new north-facing city entrance with the new glass pavilion and south-facing park entrance to create an open axis public gallery through the building, connecting the program components of the Arts Center. Drawing inspiration from Little Rock’s unique regional ecologies – including the banks of Fourche Creek, the bluffs of Emerald Park, and the agrarian landscapes of the Mississippi Delta – SCAPE’s landscape design features inviting outdoor spaces that contribute to the AAC’s role as a cultural beacon for Arkansas.

The Museum of Fine Arts, designed by architect H. Ray Burks and built by the Works Progress Administration, was the precursor to the Arts Center. Remarks from President Franklin Delano Roosevelt were read at the 1937 dedication of the museum in MacArthur Park – or what, at the time, was known as City Park. The limestone façade, designed by Little Rock artist Benjamin D. Brantley, is inscribed with “Museum of Fine Arts.” At the top of the two central pilasters, two carved relief figures – Painting personified on the left and Sculpture on the right – identify the museum as a space of art and creativity.

The 1937 Museum of Fine Arts Facade was built into the gallery walls as part of the 1982 Arkansas Arts Center renovation.

The façade was built into the interior gallery walls as part of the 1982 renovation to the Arkansas Arts Center, where it was visible in the Winthrop Rockefeller Gallery until the building closed for construction earlier this year. By 2019, the Arts Center’s MacArthur Park building was is made up of eight additions to the 1937 structure. In 1957, the Little Rock City Council granted the museum authority to expand its physical footprint – and with that expansion, the Museum also expanded its mission and changed its name. Winthrop and Jeannette Edris Rockefeller joined the Fine Arts Club and Junior League of Little Rock to create an Arts Center that would serve the entire state. Rockefeller led the fundraising campaign for the new Arkansas Arts Center, emphasizing the role of residents in contributing to build an institution that world serve all of Arkansas. Businesses and individuals from all parts of the state – including children who saved nickels and dimes in jars – made donations. In 1960, the Little Rock Board of Directors adopted an ordinance officially establishing the Arkansas Arts Center, and the new building opened in 1963. The building was also renovated and/or expanded in 1971, 1981, 1982, 1989, 2000 and 2001. 

The current renovation will be realized through a $128 million special fundraising campaign, Reimagining the Arkansas Arts Center: Campaign for Our Cultural Future. At the October 1 groundbreaking ceremony, capital campaign co-chairs Harriet and Warrant Stephens announced that the campaign has raised more than $122.7 million of its $128 million goal.

Head of Facilities Erik Swindle and Executive Director Victoria Ramirez stand in front of the historic facade.

“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,” Campaign Co-Chair Harriet Stephens said. “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.”

The project will result in a comprehensive reenvisioning of the AAC by renowned architect Jeanne Gang and her practice, Studio Gang. The new AAC will include a revitalized landscape, designed by Kate Orff and SCAPE, which will expand the connections between the architecture and MacArthur Park. Both Jeanne Gang and Kate Orff are MacArthur fellows who have received prestigious MacArthur “Genius” grants. The campaign will also provide transition and opening support, and endowment funds. Scheduled for completion in early 2022, the project will strengthen the Arkansas Arts Center as the region’s leading visual and performing arts institution.

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.

“The new Arkansas Arts Center will stand as a noted architectural treasure in the heart of Arkansas, serving even more young people and adults, and attracting visitors from throughout the city, state, region, and nation,” Campaign Co-Chair Warren Stephens said. “The Campaign is an excellent example of the transformative power of a successful public/private partnership.”

Studio Gang is an architecture and urban design practice headquartered in Chicago, with offices in New York, San Francisco and Paris. Founded and led by MacArthur Fellow Jeanne Gang, Studio Gang’s award-winning work ranges in scale and typology from the 82-story Aqua Tower to the 14-acre Nature Boardwalk at Lincoln Park Zoo, both located in Chicago. Gang has been recognized for a design process that foregrounds the relationship among people and their environments, and is the only architect named to TIME Magazine’s list of the 100 Most Influential People of 2019. Studio Gang is currently designing cultural and civic projects across the Americas, including an expansion to the American Museum of Natural History in New York, a new Center for the University of Chicago in Paris, a new United States Embassy in Brasilia, and a Global Terminal at O’Hare International Airport in Chicago. This is Studio Gang’s first project in Arkansas.

SCAPE, founded by landscape architect and MacArthur Fellow Kate Orff, is a design-driven landscape architecture and urban design studio based in New York. They believe landscape architecture can enable positive change in communities through the creation of regenerative living infrastructure and public landscapes. SCAPE works to integrate natural cycles and systems into environments across all scales, from the urban pocket-park to the regional ecological plan. They do this through diverse forms of landscape architecture – built landscapes, planning frameworks, research, books, and installations – with the ultimate goal of connecting people to their immediate environment and creating dynamic and adaptive landscapes of the future.

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.

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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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