“On the road again…just can’t wait to get on the road again!”
If the Artmobile could sing, I think it would be eagerly crooning Willie Nelson’s signature homage to life on the road as it waits all summer at the edge of the Arkansas Arts Center’s parking lot in beautiful MacArthur Park in Little Rock. Because on the road is where this particular gallery is most at home. One of only a handful of mobile art museums in the nation, the Arkansas Arts Center’s Artmobile has been serving the state for over 50 years featuring curated exhibitions of works from the Arkansas Arts Center’s permanent collection. It spends its touring season, which coincides with the school year, visiting towns on a schedule that ranges from a busy Saturday at a weekend festival in Northeast Arkansas to an energetic week of student tours at an elementary school in rural South Arkansas. And as the educator that gets to accompany the Artmobile on its travels, I can honestly say that the Artmobile and I LOVE our jobs. The Artmobile is greeted with excitement and curiosity in each town and I am reminded every day what an honor it is to be able to share with these communities in this art-discovery experience. By reaching people in their own communities, the Artmobile has allowed the Arkansas Arts Center to fulfill its mission of providing quality art experiences to the entire state.
Every summer, the Artmobile comes in for a brief vacation from the road. The tractor cab goes in for maintenance check-ups to ensure it can keep the Artmobile moving all year and an entirely new exhibition of artworks gets installed in the trailer’s state-of-the-art gallery space. The Artmobile’s new 2015-2016 exhibition Animals: Familiar & Fantastic is a vibrant and dynamic collection of artworks, highlighting various artistic methods and techniques used to bring life to creatures both real and imaginary. A colorful, mobile menagerie, this year the Artmobile will inspire conversations about the exploration of the human-animal connection and an assessment of our role in the animal world. And to help spark these conversations, a Curriculum Guide with unique lesson plans has been written to accompany the Artmobile exhibition, connecting the artworks the students will see to topics and themes found in the Arkansas Educational Frameworks and the Common Core Standards.
The Artmobile has already been inspiring such conversation in the past couple weeks at its first few venues. The exhibition made its debut at Valley Springs School District in North Arkansas two weeks ago, where students got the first peek at the painted and sculpted animals. It was so exciting to see the response to the show as students explored the artworks and their details, had amazing discussions together, and connected with the artworks. Immediately after that, it was at the ACANSA Arts Festival in North Little Rock where young visitors were able to connect with artworks in a gallery setting before creating their own masterpieces at the Children’s Art Activity in Argenta Plaza. This week the Artmobile is in DeQueen, Ark., and the creatures in the different artworks have been greeted with excitement by students who have already studied the curriculum materials and are now eager to experience the exhibition in person. Then this weekend the Artmobile will travel to the Fall Festival in Wilson, all the way across the state to Northeast Arkansas. And this is all just in the first month! With a busy touring schedule ahead, it is so good to be on the road again!
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