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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Amid a pandemic, Arkansas Arts Center works to amplify art

Author: Arkansas Arts CenterFiled under: Children's Theatre, Collection, Community, Delta 62, Delta Exhibition, Education, Exhibitions, Museum, Museum School, Uncategorized

The center is keeping its community connected to the arts through a swift pivot to digital initiatives

Shortly after closures swept through the country – and hit Little Rock – in mid-March due to Covid-19, the Arkansas Arts Center swiftly adjusted all their plans in an effort to keep the community connected to the arts. While the Arkansas Arts Center’s in-person programs are postponed, the center is offering creative and engaging arts experiences where many Central Arkansas residents are now spending the majority of their time – online.

“Arkansas Arts Center Amplified” began as a Facebook group to feature artist demonstrations, highlights of artworks from the Arkansas Arts Center Foundation Collection, Children’s Theatre performances and episodes of “Our Work Continues,” an original web series developed by the center. Within a few weeks, more than 1,000 people joined the group, and “Arkansas Arts Center Amplified” expanded into an innovative slate of online programming.

As part of Arkansas Arts Center Amplified, the 59th Young Arkansas Artists and the 62nd Annual Delta – two of the Arts Center’s popular exhibitions – will move to an online format, expanding the exhibitions’ in new and exciting ways. Across the state, Arkansans can experience the talent and creativity of these Young Arkansas Artists from their homes. Moving the Delta Exhibition online offers regional artists an international platform to showcase their work.

Art instructors designed Museum School classes to be taught via Zoom, and class offerings include ceramics, painting, drawing, color theory, sculpture and the business or art along with theatre classes for both youth and adults. More than 200 students are currently enrolled in online classes, including students joining the class from out of state.

Museum School ceramics instructors plan a new course designed specifically for Zoom.

“The Arkansas Arts Center exists to connect our community with art and creativity. We are continuing to fulfill that mission despite these challenging circumstances,” Executive Director Victoria Ramirez said. “In any museum or cultural organization, staff make the magic happen. The Arts Center’s staff is incredibly talented, and during quarantine, our employees, artists, and instructors have done some of the most impressive work I have seen in my 25-year museum career.”

Through “Arkansas Arts Center Amplified,” the Arts Center will continue to offer engaging arts experiences online while the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and local public health authorities recommend social distancing.

In the “Amplified” Facebook group, Museum School instructors have filmed videos from their homes offering step-by-step art projects, prompts and artist demonstrations, and hashtags are being used by museums across the country and the world offer opportunities to share art. #MuseumMomentsofZen focuses on calming artworks and #MuseumfromHome offers an opportunity to share favorite Arkansas Arts Center Collection works.

The digital Young Arkansas Artists Exhibition will be on view beginning May 9. Each year, art teachers and instructors throughout Arkansas submit their students’ work, and a panel of art professionals selects works to be included in the exhibition. The Young Arkansas Artists Exhibition showcases artwork from kindergarten through high school in a wide range of mediums and techniques – from crayon and pastel to collage and sculpture. The exhibition’s new digital format offers increased accessibility to the exhibition – both to families and students as well as educators as classroom instruction moves online for the foreseeable future.

Sage Holoch, Tiger Tales, Oil Pastel and Tempera, 18 x 12 inches, 2nd Grade, Indian Hills Elementary

The digital 62nd Annual Delta Exhibition, organized in collaboration with Historic Arkansas Museum, Thea Foundation, ACANSA Gallery and the Argenta Branch of the William F. Laman Library, will be available beginning June 19. Like Young Arkansas Artists, this digital format for Delta also offers increased accessibility to an exhibition that represents the entire Mississippi Delta region. 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.

Leah Grant, Notice, 2019, cyanotype and screenprint, 30 x 22 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 Arkansas Arts Center’s Riverdale location remains closed while City of Little Rock and public health officials continue to recommend social distancing. More about future programming – both digital and in-person – will be available at arkansasartscenter.org.

Arkansas Arts Center Amplified education and engagement programs are supported by Nucor Divisions – Arkansas and the Schmieding Foundation. 

Young Arkansas Artists is supported by Isabel and John Ed Anthony; Ces and Drew Kelso; JC Thompson Trust; Trinity Foundation; Barbara House; Mitchell, Williams, Selig, Gates & Woodyard, P.L.L.C.; Dale and Lee Ronnel; and Pat Wilson. Awards are supported by Arkansas Children’s Hospital and Mid-Southern Watercolorists.

The 62nd Annual Delta 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.

The Museum School is supported by The Dorothea Lawrence Gilbert Fund for Art Enrichment and Outreach and LaRand Thomas.

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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Arkansas Arts Center Delta Exhibition goes digital

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

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Virtual exhibition to feature work by 63 exceptional regional artists

Leah Grant, Notice, 2019, cyanotype and screenprint, 30 x 22 inches

In a creative reimagining, the Arkansas Arts Center’s 62nd Annual Delta Exhibition will be hosted in a digital format during this time of ongoing social distancing. The exhibition, organized in collaboration with Historic Arkansas Museum, Thea Foundation, ACANSA Gallery and the Argenta Branch of the William F. Laman Library, will be open for online viewing beginning June 19.

The Delta Exhibition is now part of the Arts Center’s new digital engagement initiative “Arkansas Arts Center Amplified’ through which the center is bringing engaging art experiences where many people are now spending much of their time – online. In addition to the center’s popular Young Arkansas Artists digital exhibition, the new digital format for Delta also offers increased accessibility to an exhibition that represents the entire Mississippi Delta region.

Elizabeth Weber, Social Distancing, 2019, leaf skeletons, honey locust thorns, wool roving, and dandelion wishes, 9 ½ x 12 x 12 inches

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. Ensuring the exhibition’s continuity is part of the Arts Center’s mission to remain vibrant, accessible and community-oriented while the MacArthur Park building is under construction.

“The Delta Exhibition is an integral piece of the Arkansas Arts Center’s legacy. 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.”

With the Arts Center’s galleries under construction, the center partnered with Historic Arkansas Museum, Thea Foundation, ACANSA Gallery and the Argenta Branch of the William F. Laman Library to host the exhibition across the community. While the exhibition moves online, these community partners remain integral to continued community outreach and engagement with the exhibition.

Stephanie Williams, The Woodsman and the Crane, 2019, pen and sharpie on newspaper, 11 x 22 ½ inches

“Historic Arkansas Museum is delighted to partner with the Arkansas Arts Center for the 62nd Annual Delta Exhibition,” said Swannee Bennett, Historic Arkansas Museum Director and Chief Curator. “This collaboration is a marvelous example of what the Arkansas arts community can accomplish by working together to elevate the work of the most talented artists working in the region today.”

“Enriching our community with thought-provoking, contemporary art is a top priority for Thea Foundation, and we’re deeply honored to be a part of this team offering what we know will be an impactful showcase of Southern talent,” Thea Foundation Executive Director Nick Leopoulos said.

Aaron Bleidt, Drawn to the Moon, 2019, freehand digital drawing and archival pigment ink print on paper, 36 x 24 inches

“The Argenta Arts District is thrilled to be a partner for the Arkansas Arts Center’s signature event, the Delta Exhibition,” arts promoter John Gaudin said. “The creative and community-oriented team that has come together around this exhibition is uniquely suited to build a valuable exhibition experience during this time.” 

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.

Stefanie Fedor, Executive Director of the Visual Arts Center of Richmond, served as juror for the Arkansas Arts Center’s 62nd Annual Delta Exhibition. Fedor selected 63 works to be featured in the exhibition from 772 entries by 348 artists. Fedor will also name 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. Fedor will announce the award winners in a virtual event on June 18. Additional online programming around the exhibition will be announced in the coming weeks.

Artists featured in the 62nd Annual Delta Exhibition include:

  • Oluwatobi Adewumi of McNeil, Ark.
  • John Allison of Little Rock, Ark.
  • Joe Barnett of Little Rock, Ark.
  • James P. Bell of Fayetteville, Ark.
  • Deitra Blackwell of Little Rock, Ark.
  • Scott Blair of Kansas City, Mo.
  • Aaron Bleidt of Fayetteville, Ark.
  • Joel Boyd of Little Rock Ark.
  • Robbie Brindley of Hot Springs, Ark.
  • Brian Bundren of Henderson, Tenn.
  • Cynthia Buob of Columbus, Miss.
  • Aaron Calvert of Russellville, Ark.
  • Dean Dablow of Ruston, La.
  • Anais Dasse of Little Rock, Ark.
  • Tessa Davidson of Cabot, Ark.
  • Britynn Davis of Roland, Ark.
  • Don DuMont of Memphis, Tenn.
  • Margo Duvall of Little Rock, Ark.
  • Robert Fairchild of Memphis, Tenn.
  • Thomas Faulkner of Ruston, La.
  • Johnny Ferrell of Benton, Ark.
  • David Foss of Bella Vista, Ark.
  • William Goodman of Jackson, Miss.
  • Leah Grant of Fayetteville, Ark.
  • Wade Hampton of Las Vegas, Nev.
  • Sharon Havelka of Memphis, Tenn.
  • Robin Hazard of Rockport, Texas
  • Reece Henderson of Little Rock, Ark.
  • Anton Hoeger of Canton, Texas
  • Dawn Holder of Clarksville, Ark.
  • Jeanie Hursley of Little Rock, Ark.
  • Tim Hursley of Little Rock, Ark.
  • Chris Hynes of Little Rock, Ark.
  • Jed Jackson of Memphis, Tenn.
  • Ajamu Kojo of Brooklyn, N.Y.
  • Cynthia Kresse of Eureka Springs, Ark.
  • John Lasater of Siloam Springs, Ark.
  • Deborah Lillie of Thibodaux, La.
  • Jeff Mickey of Hammond, La.
  • Joe Morzuch of Starkville, Miss.
  • David Mudrinich of Russellville, Ark.
  • Greely Myatt of West Memphis, Ark.
  • Dale Newkirk of Covington, La.
  • Liz Noble of Columbus, Ohio
  • Kayla O’Neal of Shongaloo, La.
  • Ray Allen Parker of Fayetteville, Ark.
  • Ed Pennebaker of Clinton, Ark.
  • Lee Robertson of Batesville, Ark.
  • David Rose of Hot Springs, Ark.
  • Euphus Ruth of Greenville, Miss.
  • Barbara Satterfield of Conway, Ark.
  • Justin Shaw of Warrensburg, Mo.
  • Chassidy Siratt of Donaldson, Ark.
  • Derek Slagle of Little Rock, Ark.
  • Steve Spencer of Little Rock, Ark.
  • Marilyn Avery Turner of Knoxville, Tenn.
  • Anna Wagner of Cabot, Ark.
  • Louis Watts of Burlington, N.C.
  • Elizabeth Weber of Little Rock, Ark.
  • Mildred West of Oxford, Miss.
  • Stephanie Williams of North Little Rock, Ark.
  • Steven Wise of Rogers, Ark.
  • Anna Zusman of Magnolia, Ark.

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.

Anton Hoeger, Woman with Red Shoes, 2019, oil on canvas, 43 1/3 x 43 1/3 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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Young Arkansas Artists Exhibition provides a window into wonder

Author: Arkansas Arts CenterFiled under: Education, Exhibitions, Gallery, Museum, News, Youth & Family

See the world through the eyes of young artists as popular annual exhibition moves online

Ruth Rodriguez, Go-Go Juice, White Charcoal, 8 x 12 inches, 11th Grade, Greene County Tech

The creativity of Arkansas students statewide will be on view in the Arkansas Arts Center’s Young Arkansas Artists Exhibition May 9 – August 2. This popular annual exhibition and associated events will move to a digital format to maintain social distancing.  

Each year, art teachers and instructors throughout Arkansas submit their students’ work, and a panel of art professionals selects works to be included in the exhibition. The Young Arkansas Artists Exhibition showcases artwork from kindergarten through high school in a wide range of mediums and techniques – from crayon and pastel to collage and sculpture.

Dalton Crook, Mr. Ostrich, Acrylic, 18 x 24 inches, Kindergarten, Miss Selma’s Schools

The exhibition is now part of the Arts Center’s new digital engagement initiative “Arkansas Arts Center Amplified’ through which the center is committed to bringing engaging art experiences where many people are now spending much of their time – online. The new digital format offers increased accessibility to the exhibition – both to families and students as well as educators as classroom instruction moves online for the foreseeable future.

“The Arkansas Arts Center remains committed to our community. I commend Arts Center staff for their work developing an innovative, technology-based solution that ensures the continuity of this treasured exhibition,” Executive Director Victoria Ramirez said. “Young Arkansas Artists offers us an opportunity to see the world through the eyes of young artists, and the remarkable talent, creativity and perspective of these students is an absolute joy to experience.”

Kylie Manes, Hopeless Manic, Batik, 18 x 24 inches, 10th Grade, Norfork High School

This year, the panel selected 65 works from 478 entries. Guest juror Jonathan Wright, associate professor of art at the University of Arkansas Pine Bluff, selected a Best in Class and two Honorable Mention awards for each grade. Wright also selected the recipients of the Mid-Southern Watercolorists Award for Achievement in Watercolor and Ray Smenner Award for Achievement in Painting. Members of the Arkansas Art Educators Association also selected one Teacher’s Choice award from each grade. Each winning artist’s school receives a monetary award to support its art program funded by Arkansas Children’s Hospital.

Young Arkansas Artists awards will be presented at a virtual awards ceremony and family festival at 11 a.m. on May 9. The awards ceremony will be hosted via Zoom with art activities using household objects available on Arkansas Arts Center social media channels. The digital exhibition will be open for online viewing beginning May 9.

Sage Holoch, Tiger Tales, Oil Pastel and Tempera, 18 x 12 inches, 2nd Grade, Indian Hills Elementary

Young Arkansas Artists is supported by Isabel and John Ed Anthony; Ces and Drew Kelso; JC Thompson Trust; Trinity Foundation; Barbara House; Mitchell, Williams, Selig, Gates & Woodyard, P.L.L.C.; Dale and Lee Ronnel; and Pat Wilson. Awards are supported by Arkansas Children’s Hospital and Mid-Southern Watercolorists.

Arkansas Arts Center programs are 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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Amid pandemic, Arkansas Arts Center creates innovative online art classes

Author: Arkansas Arts CenterFiled under: Adult Classes, Education, Museum School, Youth & Family, Youth Classes

Museum School partners with local business to offer students curbside pickup for art supplies

A creative team of artists and instructors at the Arkansas Arts Center Museum School have found new ways to offer art-making and learning opportunities online during this time of social distancing.

An imaginative schedule of classes will be held via video-conferencing platform Zoom. Class offerings include ceramics, painting, drawing, color theory and sculpture along with theatre classes for both youth and adults. The Museum School’s popular Business of Art Series will continue virtually, with opportunities to explore ethics, copyright, social media and more. Moving art-making experiences out of the studios and into students’ living rooms also offers new opportunities to explore the home environment through still life or sculpture. Theatre classes for youth will offer a structured environment for families to explore together without leaving their homes as well as opportunities for teens to explore plays, musical theatre and digital storytelling.

For classes that require specific supplies, the Museum School has partnered with local art supply store, Art Outfitters, to create supply kits that will be available for curbside pickup at the store’s downtown Little Rock location.

The Museum School’s spring quarter classes were canceled for the safety of students, faculty and AAC staff following guidance from public health officials. But the Arkansas Arts Center is committed to remaining connected to its community during this time.

“These are unprecedented times,” Executive Director Victoria Ramirez said, “but the Arts Center is an important piece of our community’s creative life. Amid uncertainty, we will always find a way to make space for art and creativity. Our connection to the arts is the very thing that reminds us of our humanity and resilience.”

Online class offerings are being introduced at a lower in price point and in a shorter time frame than standard Museum School offerings – making them perfect for those who are new to art-making or the Museum School.

“In uncertain times, the arts are vital – the artists and instructors in the Museum School are very conscious of that,” said Rana Edgar, Director of Education and Programs. “We knew it was essential for us to find a way to continue being a place for our community to come together – even virtually – to have new experiences or hone new skills.”

Registration for online classes is open now. Classes begin April 20 and will run for four weeks.

The Arkansas Arts Center is committed to offering engaging arts experiences online while the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and local public health authorities recommend social distancing.  The Arts Center has also launched a new Facebook group, Arkansas Arts Center Amplified, to feature artist demonstrations, highlights of artworks from the Arkansas Arts Center Foundation Collection, Children’s Theatre performances and episodes of “Our Work Continues,” an original web series developed by the center.

Following guidance from the City of Little Rock and public health officials, the Arkansas Arts Center’s Riverdale location is closed until further notice. The Arts Center will continue to provide updates about future programming in the coming weeks.

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. The Museum School is supported by The Dorothea Lawrence Gilbert Fund for Art Enrichment and Outreach and LaRand Thomas. 

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