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

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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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Arkansas Arts Center announces Delta Exhibition winners

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

Digital exhibition on view beginning June 19

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

The Arkansas Arts Center announced the award-winning works of the 62nd Annual Delta Exhibition this evening, with Arkansas artist Aaron Calvert taking the top prize.

Stefanie Fedor, Executive Director, Visual Arts Center of Richmond

Guest juror Stefanie Fedor selected 63 artworks representing 10 states to be featured in the exhibition from 772 artworks submitted by 348 artists. From the selected works, Fedor named a Grand Award winner and two Delta Award winners. A Contemporaries Award winner was selected by the Contemporaries, an auxiliary membership group of the Arkansas Arts Center.

Grand Award – $2,500 prize
Aaron Calvert of Russellville, Ark., for Rocket Rabbit

Delta Awards – $750 prize
Leah Grant of Fayetteville, Ark., for Notice
Anton Hoeger of Canton, Texas, for Woman with Red Shoes

Contemporaries Award – $250 prize
Chris Hynes of Little Rock, Ark., for Spirit

“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,” Fedor wrote in her juror statement. “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.”

Leah Grant, Notice, 2019, Leah Grant, Notice, 2019, cyanotype and screenprint on BFK printmaking paper, 30 x 22 inches

The first digital presentation in the storied exhibition’s history, the 62nd Delta Exhibition was organized in collaboration with Historic Arkansas Museum, Thea Foundation, ACANSA Gallery and the Argenta Branch of the William F. Laman Library. Elevating artistic voices from the American South and beyond, the Delta Exhibition addresses identity, place, history, heritage and power. As one of the longest-running and most prestigious juried art exhibitions in the region, the 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.

“The Delta Exhibition offers artists a high-profile platform to share their work with a broad audience. As a Delta arts institution, the Arts Center remains committed to Delta artists. We are proud to present an innovative solution to continue the exhibition during this time,” Executive Director Victoria Ramirez said. “Along with our creative arts partners, we look forward to showcasing art that will educate and inspire, especially amid challenging circumstances.”

Anton Hoeger, Woman with Red Shoes, 2019, oil on canvas, 43 1/3 x 43 1/3 inches

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 62nd Annual Delta Exhibition is 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. Each partner organization has also curated a selection of works from the exhibition exploring a theme related to their institution’s mission. The 62nd Annual Delta Exhibition – including the partner theme galleries – is on view beginning tomorrow morning at delta.arkansasartscenter.org.

Chris Hynes, Spirit, 2020, found objects and clay, 24 x 18 x 6 inches

The exhibition is supported by Mrs. Lisenne Rockefeller; Terri and Chuck Erwin; Judy Fletcher, In Memory of John R. Fletcher; Friday, Eldredge & Clark, LLP; JC Thompson Trust; Dianne and Bobby Tucker; AAC Contemporaries; Bank OZK; Phyllis and Michael Barrier; East Harding Construction; Marion W. Fulk; Barbara House; Don Tilton; and the Andre Simon Memorial Trust in memory of everyone who has died of acquired immune deficiency syndrome (AIDS). The Grand Award is supported by The John William Linn Endowment Fund.

Arkansas Arts Center programs are also supported in part by: Arkansas Arts Center Foundation; Arkansas Arts Center Board of Trustees; 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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The Storied Collections of Judy Onofrio

Author: Arkansas Arts CenterFiled under: Collection, Museum

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As a child, Judy Onofrio collected odds and ends from the beaches and boardwalks. As an adult, her fascination with objects transformed her artistic practice.

Image of Judy Onofrio's Just Pretending, on view at the Hillary Rodham Clinton Children's Library
On View at the Hillary Rodham Clinton Children’s Library: 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

Judy Onofrio is always finding things. On the beaches and boardwalks of her childhood. At flea markets and garage sales and auctions. 

“I get a lot of power from objects,” she said.

Onofrio’s penchant for collecting began at a very young age. 

“Most of my youth was on a beach, and beach combing and finding things and doing drawings in the sand,” Onofrio said. “The whole thing of discovery just teaches very much about how – it’s like returning, it’s a memory thing – it’s like returning to something that was a wonderful creative time in my life growing up.”

While she was learning to collect, Onofrio was also learning to make art with her great aunt. Aunt Trude was an outsider artist – she was never trained, she never went to art school – but she made art using an array of non-traditional materials. Onofrio remembers Aunt Trude’s remarkable garden, where together they would make art with whatever objects they pleased. With Trude, it was “anything goes. That’s something incredible to learn when you’re young.”

“She gave me the ability to recognize that I was an artist,” Onofrio said. “It just was the beginning of everything for me.”

Onofrio began her artistic career working in clay. For 15 years, she made ceramic sculpture in her basement studio. But eventually, clay just wasn’t big enough for her anymore – it couldn’t contain all the things Onofrio was looking to include in her work. She moved to site-specific installations and fire performances (in which she built large sculptures specifically to be set on fire). Still searching for a new direction, Onofrio built an 800-square-foot studio onto the back of her Rochester, Minn. house. There, she experimented in a variety of media while she got used to the new space. But while Onofrio worked in the studio, the garden, just beyond the back door, was beckoning. 

Judyland, Judy Onofrio's sculpture-filled garden in Rochester, Minn.
Judyland – Judy Onofrio’s garden in Rochester, Minn.

For Onofrio, it was a harkening back to Aunt Trude’s garden. She began to work outside, creating Judyland, a lush garden filled with oddball sculptures, colorful treasures and flea-market finds. Then it clicked – she decided to bring what she was doing with her garden into her studio. 

The things she’d been stockpiling and collecting for years – the garage sale finds, the auction acquisitions, the stuff picked up on the beach and boardwalk – suddenly made sense. She began to work. 

With all these collected objects, Onofrio and her studio assistants built fantastical figures – enormous sea creatures and mermaids and acrobats – and painted them with a mosaic of collected objects. These works – Onofrio’s “mosaic works” – are instinctual, imagined conceptually, then crafted meticulously according to the whims of the artist. 

“It doesn’t start until I walk in the studio,” Onofrio said. “And then it could completely change because thinking is not doing – it just isn’t.” 

Onofrio and her assistants worked on Just Pretending for more than eight months, carving the base and figure in wood before embellishing it in a mosaic of glass and mirrors and beads and buttons and bottle caps and marbles and chain links and ceramic figurines. To attempt to name every object on the sculpture is both irresistible and impossible – but it pulls the viewer in as they contemplate the parts and then the whole.

Just Pretending is remarkably intricate. With layered-chain hair, cherry red lips and bright golden eyes, the mermaid gazes up at a mosaic snake. The snake wraps around her shoulder and across her back as her bottle-cap scaled tailfin flips in the air. She sits atop a pedestal of marbles and broken mirror bits and miniscule porcelain animals and an endless litany of trinkets and curios and tchotchkes. Basswood-carved figurines – fish and snakes and birds – hang from the sculpture like ornaments.

With endless symbolism to be found in the sculpture, Just Pretending rewards close observation. If you look long enough, the stories you could tell about this mermaid and her cadre of animals and flowers and figurines and mirrors and marbles are nearly infinite. If one man’s trash is another man’s treasure, that man’s treasure is but a piece of Onofrio’s collection of stories.

“Judy has the innate ability to see the infinite possibilities that exist in other people’s seemingly mundane toss-aways,” McKnight Foundation chair Erika Binger wrote about Onofrio’s work in 2005.

When Onofrio was a child in Virginia Beach, wandering the sand and boardwalk for treasures to collect, she stumbled upon something that stuck with her. A hurricane had left a shifting hole in the sand. The young Onofrio climbed down into the hole and found the ruins of an old beach club – palm trees painted on plaster walls, old tickets littering the floor. Slivers of sunlight shone into the room through the dunes.

That’s Just Pretending. It’s memory and nostalgia. A beachside discovery shimmering with summer afternoon sunlight. “In looking at it, it really takes me back to a happy place of discovery,” Onofrio said.

Just Pretending’s sense of storytelling and nostalgia makes it a perfect fit at the Hillary Rodham Clinton Children’s Library & Learning Center. Onofrio has written that she “…constructs a world of memory, humor and stories,” in her work. And what else is the role of a library – and especially a children’s library – if not to help build worlds of imagination?

Headshot of artist Judy Onofrio
Judy Onofrio

In 2005, 10 years after she finished Just Pretending, Onofrio was named a McKnight Distinguished Artist. In 2008, she received a diagnosis that prompted her to reconsider her artistic practice – the ways she’d been working beyond her physical capabilities. The mosaic pieces represented a utopia where she could be all the things she wasn’t in real life. In this fantasy, trapeze artists and mermaids and airborne acrobats ruled the world. 

For a while, Onofrio had also been collecting bones. Much as with her earlier collecting, she was fascinated by them – but unsure how to use them. She stashed her new collection under the porch. She sent some off to her artist daughter – maybe Jennifer could find a use for them.

While she was sick, Onofrio began to work with bones. After a few transitional works that included mosaic materials and bones, she stripped the color away entirely. She got rid of the collections of stuff that made up the colorful mosaics, still stockpiled in her warehouse. She went searching for more bones, digging them up, eventually collecting, she estimates, nearly 1,000 pounds of bones. She cleaned them, painted them, and cast copies of ones she couldn’t find enough of out in the world. 

Out of bones, Onofrio built large baskets and wall-hangings and free-standing sculptures. Stripping away the mosaic elements, Onofrio was working with pure form. With bones as the found materials making up her work, the symbolism of an art of collected objects became more stark. But just as the mosaic work had, these new works pointed to her own physical vulnerability.

“I think about the bones as a celebration of life and transformation,” Onofrio said “It was just a whole new start.”

Onofrio takes what is left behind – the remains of life and living and allows them to contain something new and more than they ever before. She assembles new worlds – both utopian and stark, hopeful and reminding us of our own mortality.

That’s what Onofrio has always done with her art. She takes the things we leave behind and allows them to be part of a new story – and with all these new stories, she gives herself and her viewers new life.

– Maria Davison, Communications Manager and Katie Hall, Collections Manager and Head Registrar

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Reflecting on art as a tool for activism and change

Author: Arkansas Arts CenterFiled under: Community, Education, Faculty & Staff, Museum, News

At the Arkansas Arts Center, we believe Black Lives Matter and stand in solidarity with our community and all those who stand for justice, equality and inclusion. 

Over the last few weeks, we have seen people across the country – and throughout the world – raise their voices for justice. As a staff at the Arts Center, we have reflected – and are reminded of the power of art as a force for change in our world.

Some art is inherently political. It interrogates power. It fights injustice. It speaks to the challenges of our time – and to the history that got us here.

Art also offers us an opportunity to learn. We have gathered a selection of resources for talking about and understanding race history, racism and anti-racism from our colleagues in the museum, arts and theatre communities. Many of these are not new – but in this historic moment, we are committed to elevating these voices and stories.

– Executive Director Victoria Ramirez

TALKING ABOUT RACE 

The Smithsonian National Museum of African American History and Culture offers guidance for having challenging conversations with your family – and reflecting on your own relationship with race. View the guide here.

BLACK HISTORY THROUGH ART

Smarthistory’s Seeing America series traces Black history in America through art and artifacts.

CAN ART AMEND HISTORY?

In this TED Talk, Arkansas Arts Center Foundation Collection Artist Titus Kaphar centers the forgotten figures in art history and asks “What happens when we shift our focus and confront unspoken truths?”

DREAM LAND: LITTLE ROCK’S WEST 9TH STREET

Arkansas PBS’s documentary explores the history of Little Rock’s West 9th Street, which was once a booming Black neighborhood and business district. Watch the full documentary here.

INTERSTATE 630

A few weeks ago, protesters marched on Interstate 630 in Little Rock, drawing attention to the history of the highway and the neighborhood it destroyed. Read more about the development of Interstate 630 here.

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Arkansas Arts Center continues innovative online art classes

Author: Arkansas Arts CenterFiled under: Museum School

Adult classes and youth summer camps to be offered virtually

An imaginative slate of online classes and camps for youth and adults will continue this summer through the Arkansas Arts Center.

The Museum School will offer art classes for adults in four-week mini quarters: June 1–26, July 6–31 and August 3–28. Class offerings for the June mini quarter include courses in ceramics, painting, drawing, printmaking, collage, art history and a continuation of the popular Business of Art series.

Online classes and camps are part of Arkansas Arts Center Amplified, through which the Arts Center remains committed to connecting the community to creative and engaging arts experiences online. The innovative slate of digital programming also includes signature juried exhibitions and social media initiatives. Through “AAC Amplified,” the Arts Center will continue to engage communities throughout Arkansas and beyond with art and creativity.

drawings from a spring Color Theory class
Students in Color Theory with Joel Boyd during the online spring quarter created drawings illustrating the principles of color theory. Photo courtesy of Joel Boyd.

“At the Arkansas Arts Center, we are always looking for innovative ways to make space for art and creativity,” Executive Director Victoria Ramirez said, “Through online programming, we are keeping our staff and community safe while expanding the reach of our mission to a wider audience.”

Online art and performance classes proved popular during a trial session that began in April. More than 200 students enrolled in online classes, including students new to the Museum School and students who joined from outside of Arkansas. The price point for these courses also remains lower than traditional studio classes, making them a perfect opportunity for students new to the art-making or to the Museum School.

“It is essential for us to find a way to continue being a place for our community to come together to make art and learn new skills,” Education and Programs Director Rana Edgar said. “We look forward to exploring all the ways we can connect, learn and create virtually this summer.

The Arkansas Arts Center’s summer camps for youth have also been reimagined for an online platform. The popular Junior Arts Academy for students ages 6–9 will run for four weeks in June (June 1–26) providing a visual arts and theatre experience for participants. Students will learn about a work from the AAC collection each week, have a story performed for them by Children’s Theatre and receive prompts to work on visual arts and theatre-based projects at their own pace throughout the week. At the end of each week the group will have a virtual “Play & Display,” where they will show off their creations. A box of supplies will be provided for all students in this program

For students ages 10–18, the Arkansas Arts Center is offering “Playmaking @ Home” July 6–31. In this program, students will participate in solo and ensemble theatre work in the comfort of their homes.  Students will receive weekly performance and design prompts and along with mentoring and feedback from theatre professionals.

The deadline to register for Junior Arts Online is May 29. The deadline to register for Playmaking @ Home is July 2.

The Museum School is supported by The Dorothea Lawrence Gilbert Fund for Art Enrichment and Outreach and LaRand Thomas. Junior Arts Online and Playmaking @Home are supported by the Schmieding Foundation. Scholarships for youth summer programs are supported by the Rebsamen Fund. Arkansas Arts Center Amplified is supported by Nucor Divisions – Arkansas.

Arkansas Arts Center programs are also 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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New Arts Center website tracks construction progress

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

MacArthur Park project continues to evolve with opening expected in 2022

The Arkansas Arts Center has launched a new website to update the community on the transformational renovation of its MacArthur Park campus: reimagining.arkansasartscenter.org.

Designed by renowned architecture firm Studio Gang, 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.

“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. “This new website offers an extensive look at this new space and everything it will have to offer. It’s also an opportunity to recognize the supporters – both public and private – who are integral to the success of this project.”

At the site, foundations for the new additions have been installed, and construction on the steel structure for the second-floor gallery space and the curved walls of the building’s central axis – a key element of the project’s architecture – are in progress. The new website will be updated regularly with photos, videos and details on the phases of the construction project.

The transformation of the Arkansas Arts Center into a state-of-the-art facility is being 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. In October 2019, capital campaign co-chairs Harriet and Warren Stephens announced that the campaign has raised more than $122.7 million of its $128 million goal.

Through the project website, the community can also learn how to support the campaignto establish a significant architectural treasure in the heart of Arkansas that serves the community, stimulates tourism, and drives the economy. Recognition opportunities are available to honor gifts at every donation level.

“The plans for the newly reimagined Arkansas Arts Center are transformative,” Warren Stephens said. “We believe in the Arkansas Arts Center and know together we can make it a thriving and influential cultural institution for present and future generations.”

Studio Gang’s design for the reimagined Arkansas Arts Center creates a space where people 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.

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.

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 goal of connecting people to their immediate environment and creating dynamic and adaptive landscapes of the future.

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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