Little Rock Look Back: Groundbreaking for Museum of Fine Arts (forerunner to Arkansas Arts Center)

MFA postcardOn January 3, 1936, the ground was broken for the Museum of Fine Arts building in City Park.  The facility would face Ninth Street and be to the west of the Arsenal Tower Building.   That building was the one remaining structure of more than 30 which had populated the grounds when it was a federal military establishment.

Excavation for the building uncovered the foundation for another structure.  New footings for the Museum would be poured into the old footings.

The cornerstone would be laid in October 1936, and the building would open in October 1937.  The building would serve as the museum’s home until the new construction for the new Arkansas Arts Center began in 1961. That construction would enclose the original Museum of Fine Arts.  By that time, the City had long renamed the park in honor of General Douglas MacArthur, who was born there when it had been a military installation.

Subsequent additions to the Arkansas Arts Center over the decades have further expanded the museum’s footprint.  After the 2000 expansion, the original 1937 facade was featured more prominently than it had been since 1963. With the Arkansas Arts Center again slated for renovation and expansion, the original 1937 facade will be maintained and possibly even further highlighted.

But it all began on January 3, 1936.


1 thought on “Little Rock Look Back: Groundbreaking for Museum of Fine Arts (forerunner to Arkansas Arts Center)

  1. Sometime between 1936 and the last expansion in 2000 that you speak of, there had to be some ‘other’ kind of construction at the Art Center.

    George Fisher, the marvelous cartoonist of the Arkansas Gazette, told me the story of when his wife, Rosemary ‘Snooky’ Fisher, was being recognized for her work at the Center. The talented English-bred artist was the head of the Pottery Dept. , creating from clay the most marvelous vases and items of awe.

    This occasion was a retirement-like event – a dinner actually – and George’s wife was up on the dias with a room full of friends and admirers making up the audience. Membrs of the arts community were going to the podium saying kind words about Rosemary and her outstanding talent. At one point, a gentleman was grasping the lecturn, extolling how loooooooong this good woman had been a part of the place. He recounted she had been there when the ‘first brick was laid for the construction of the such ‘n such…’ Rosemary Fisher – in a grand stage-whisper — interrupted him saying: “Hell, I made the first brick!” The audience roared with laughter! All were delighted since the Arkansas Art Center’s Pottery Dept. really COULD have made brick!

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