Two days before the Grand Opening of the Arkansas Arts Center, the institution’s members were given a sneak preview. On May 16, 1963, at 8:00pm, members were given a preview of the opening exhibition: Five Centuries of European Painting.
Members were greeted with remarks by Jeannette Rockefeller, the Board of Trustees president. Following her were comments by Alan R. Symonds, who was the Arts Center’s executive director. James Rorimer, the director of the Metropolitan Museum of Art, which had created the opening exhibition, also spoke.
The exhibition featured works by Titian, El Greco, van Dyck, Murillo, Gainsborough, Monet, Courbet, Renoir, Degas, Pissarro, and Gauguin. Another artist featured was Paul Signac. Today the Arts Center has one of the largest collections or works by Signac due to the generosity of collector James T. Dyke.
Mr. Symonds had been hired by the Rockefellers to lead the planned automobile museum on Petit Jean. He was loaned to the Arts Center to get the museum open. A year after the AAC grand opening, he returned to the assignment on Petit Jean.