Little Rock Look Back: Plans for Arkansas Arts Center unveiled on May 22, 1961

In a dinner at the Hotel Sam Peck, plans for the new Arkansas Arts Center were unveiled on Monday, May 22, 1961.

It was estimated the project would cost $600,000. A total of $646,000 (the equivalent of $5.5 million in 2019) had been raised by the Junior League of Little Rock, Fine Arts Club, and the Board of the Museum of Fine Arts.

At the time the project was getting underway, it was one of the first types of multidisciplinary arts facilities in the United States.

Ground was broken in August 1961 and the building would open officially in May 1963 (though parts of it were already in use by December 1962).

The firm of Ginocchio, Cromwell, Carter & Neyland did the architectural design.  Pickens-Bond Construction Company was the general contractor.

The May 1961 plans featured a slight expansion of existing gallery space (which was the 1937 Museum of Fine Arts building). It included the addition of a theatre, classrooms, administrative offices, a library, and more gallery space.  While the original entrance would be kept, the main focus of the building would be shifted from 9th Street into MacArthur Park with a new south entrance.

Over the years, the building underwent several additions.  These were tacked on to the existing edifice without truly linking it into one building.  On July 1, 2019, the facility will be closed to begin the work on the re-imaging and renovation. That process will unite the existing and new spaces into one seamless structure.