Temporary Home for Arkansas Arts Center announced

The Arkansas Arts Center will temporarily relocate to 2510 Cantrell Road in the Riverdale Shopping Center for two and a half years during the center’s upcoming renovation and expansion project.

The temporary location, about three miles from the AAC’s MacArthur Park site, will include studio space for Museum School classes, design and rehearsal space for the Children’s Theatre and additional flexible spaces for offices, retail, facilities storage and educational programs.

“The AAC’s impact in our community, both in Central Arkansas and across the state, is immense and enduring,” said Merritt Dyke, President of the AAC board. “In addition to the nearly 200,000 visitors to MacArthur Park, the AAC’s statewide outreach numbers approach half a million people. We’ve been working with numerous community partners to ensure that we can continue to fulfill our mission and to serve these people while the AAC is under construction.”

“The support we’ve received throughout this endeavor has been overwhelming, and we are grateful to Harriet and Warren Stephens who are chairing our lead gifts capital campaign,” said Dyke. “Without their leadership, this project would not be where it is today. I am greatly appreciative to the AAC and Foundation boards, staff and all our community partners for their role in realizing this important vision.”

The AAC’s staff of approximately 100 full-and part-time employees will office out of this location during the renovation. Groundbreaking on the AAC’s transformational building project is scheduled for fall 2019, with the project anticipated to be completed in early 2022. The MacArthur Park facility will be available for all regular summer programming, with the new temporary Riverdale location opening sometime in September.

“The AAC’s programs are a vital part of our community,” said Bobby Tucker, Chairman of the AAC’s Foundation board. “We feel it’s of maximum importance that they continue to be offered while the center is under construction. Our commitment to the success of this transformational project in MacArthur Park is unwavering, as is our commitment to the organization as a whole.”

The Cantrell Road location will offer convenient, secure parking and new amenities for AAC program participants. With 15,200 square feet of studio space, the Museum School will offer nearly all its current program of classes and workshops, including drawing, painting, ceramics, jewelry, glass, small metals, woodworking and printmaking for its nearly 3,000 students per year. Fall Quarter classes will begin in the Riverdale location in September.

“We’ve been working diligently for more than a year to ensure that our students have a creative space, with the equipment needed to continue to engage in our classes in a temporary location,” said Rana Edgar, Director of Education and Programs. “Over the next three years, we plan to welcome our students into well-appointed studios, with all our core classes currently being offered, in addition to offering expanded opportunities to build their talents.”

In the Children’s Theatre’s 14,200 square-foot workshop, theatre staff will create sets, sew costumes, and build props for the AAC’s productions, including touring programs. Children’s Theatre on Tour, part of the AAC’s Statewide ArtsReach program, serves more than 35,000 students and families in communities across Arkansas every year with traveling professional theatre productions.

“The work of the Children’s Theatre team doesn’t stop when the stage lights go down in MacArthur Park,” said Bradley Anderson, Artistic Director in the Children’s Theatre. “We create theatre productions each season that travel the state, in addition to our local summer theatre academies, theatre classes and performances at the AAC. This move will allow those programs to continue – and possibly even expand.”

The AAC Museum Shop will also move its retail storefront into 1,500 square feet of space, joining many other local restaurants and businesses in the area. Administrative, facilities, equipment storage and flexible educational spaces will round out a total of 65,000 square feet of space at the temporary facility.

The move is one piece of the AAC’s commitment to remaining accessible to the community while its MacArthur Park facility is under construction, and to working with arts partners across the region to expand programming reach.

“The AAC is more than any one space or one building. Our programs will continue to span across communities and extend across the state over the next two and a half years,” said Laine Harber, Interim Executive Director and Chief Financial Officer. “This would not be possible without the commitment and dedication of our board leadership in continuing to fulfill our mission and vision while we undergo these much-needed renovations.”

AAC exhibition programs will also pop up in locations across Central Arkansas and beyond, including the continuation of the popular Delta and Young Arkansas Artists exhibitions. Works from the collection will also travel to other institutions across the country and across Arkansas, in addition to select objects from the contemporary craft collection remaining on view at 15 Central Arkansas Library System locations.

More details about additional programs and partnerships locally and across the state will continue to be announced throughout 2019.


Little Rock Look Back: Townsend Wolfe

Townsend Wolfe, who led the Arkansas Arts Center for 34 years, was born on August 15, 1935.  He was hired to lead the Arkansas Arts Center 50 years ago this month.

Though not the founding director of the Arkansas Arts Center, Wolfe was the director for well over half of the institution’s 57 year history. Hired in 1968 at the age of 32 (making him one of the youngest art museum directors in the US at the time), he retired in 2002.  That year he was honored with the Governor’s Arts Award for Lifetime Achievement by the Arkansas Arts Council.

A native of South Carolina, Wolfe held a bachelor’s degree from the Atlanta Art Institute and a master’s degree from the Cranbrook Academy of Art. He also received a certificate from the Harvard Institute of Arts Administration, and honorary doctoral degrees from two other institutions.  After teaching some classes and seminars at the AAC in the early 1960s, he was recruited to return full-time to the Arkansas Arts Center by Governor and Mrs. Winthrop Rockefeller.

During his tenure at the Arts Center, he first was responsible for creating financial stability. After drastic cost-cutting measures, he refocused programming which led to the creation of the current Museum School, a focus of works on paper for the collection, cultivating a thriving collectors group, establishment of a children’s theatre, expansion of statewide services, and several additions to the physical structure.  He encouraged others to collect art and expanded Arts Center programming into Little Rock neighborhoods.

In addition to serving on the National Council of the Arts, Wolfe was a member of the National Museum Services Board and the board of the Elizabeth Foundation for the Arts in New York. He was curator for an exhibition in the First Ladies’ Sculpture Garden at the White House in 1995, and was the recipient of the 1997 Distinguished Service Award (outside the profession) by the National Art Educators Association.

Over the years, Wolfe has served in a variety of capacities for the Association of American Museums, the National Endowment for the Arts, and the Institute of Museum and Library Services.

Wolfe, who died in 2017, was posthumously honored by the Arts Center earlier this year with one of its Portrait of a Patron awards.  In 1973, he received the first Winthrop Rockefeller Memorial Award from the Arkansas Arts Center.

Little Rock Look Back: 50 years of Arkansas Arts Center community art classes

AAC Logo in 1963

Though it was not yet officially called the Museum School, the Arkansas Arts Center’s first day of community art classes started on June 3, 1968.

To call it the first day of community art classes is a bit of a misnomer.  When the institution opened in May 1963, there were community art classes.  But once the degree-granting program launched in autumn 1964, the consistent, regular offering of those classes went away.

With the January 1968 announcement that the degree-granting program would end by May 31, 1968, plans were underway to bring back community arts classes.  Monday, June 3, 1968, started that program. Since that day, the Arkansas Arts Center has consistently offered arts classes to the community.

The session which began on June 3, 1968, was six weeks in length.  There were fourteen faculty members teaching 48 different classes for both adults and children.  The registration ranged from $10 to $22, depending on the course.   Among the course topics were painting, drawing, print-making, sculpture, crafts, design, children’s and teenage theatre, and art appreciation.  The faculty came from local artists.

Plans were already underway to offer twelve week sessions in the autumn of 1968 and spring of 1969 in a variety of art and dramatic disciplines.

Today there are 48 faculty in the Museum School with seven additional staff members.  There are approximately 50 classes for adults, over a dozen additional workshops for adults, and nearly twenty art classes for youth.  This does not include the theatre classes, or the annual Junior Arts Academy and Summer Theatre Academy.

Today from 9 to 3, the Arkansas Arts Center Museum School Sale

AAC Mus SaleThe Museum School Sale is the perfect way to stock up on one-of-a-kind holiday gifts or add to your personal art collection!

More than 80 Museum School instructors and students will be on hand selling original artwork at the Museum School Sale.

Plus, enjoy artist demonstrations, food trucks, and drawings for $50 off a Museum School class!

New this Year: a FREE space for children’s art activities! Parents are welcome to drop off their children, ages 4 to 9, at the kids activity area while they shop. The activity area will be open from 9:00 a.m. to 1:00 p.m. and will have hands on art activities and refreshments. Space is limited.

The event runs from 9am to 3pm at the ClearChannel Metroplex.

LR Look Back: 50th Anniversary of Arkansas Arts Center opening

IMG_5262Fifty years ago today, the Arkansas Arts Center officially opened in Little Rock’s MacArthur Park.  The project, which dates back to the early days of the Fine Arts Club, was formally authorized by the Little Rock City Board of Directors in September 1960 following a successful fundraising drive by supporters.  Future Governor Winthrop Rockefeller was a vital force in raising money and establishing the vision which transformed a small municipal art museum (the Museum of Fine Arts) into a comprehensive art center serving the entire state.

Since that day in May 1963, the physical plant of the Arkansas Arts Center has expanded several times. The programming has also grown. Though the degree-granting graduate school was abandoned in the late 1960s (because it nearly bankrupted the AAC), the Arkansas Arts Center now boasts an extensive and expansive Museum School offering classes in a variety of art forms to students of all ages.

Likewise the cutting-edge theatre company which was once in residence at the AAC is long-gone. After a few other programming attempts, the theatre space has been home to the Arkansas Arts Center Children’s Theatre since 1975.

The changes mentioned above and the expansions were shepherded by longtime Director and Chief Curator Townsend Wolfe.  Pictured above is a look at the main entrance to the facility, which has served in this capacity since an expansion which opened in February 2000.

Dr. Todd Herman is the current Executive Director of the Arkansas Arts Center. He joined the museum in the summer of 2011.


Arkansas Arts Center exhibit – Museum School Faculty Exhibition: Past and Present

David Bailin’s Anticipated Exile, 1988
charcoal and oil on canvas
Arkansas Arts Center Foundation Collection:Purchase, Grand Award, 31st Annual Delta Art Exhibition

In conjunction with the Arkansas Arts Center 50th Anniversary celebration, a new exhibit has just been installed.

The Museum School Faculty Exhibition: Past and Present pays tribute to the Museum School faculty. The Arkansas Arts Center first began offering art classes for children and adults during the spring of 1960, prior to the construction of the new facility.

When the new Arts Center was completed in May of 1963, it included studios that comprise the Museum School in which a full schedule of art classes was offered.

The Museum School Faculty Exhibition: Past and Present highlights work created by current Museum School Faculty along with work from the permanent collection by former faculty members. Works in a variety of media are featured. This exhibition is the final installment in the series.

The exhibit runs through March 10.

The Arkansas Arts Center galleries are open:

Tuesday – Saturday 10 a.m. – 5 p.m.
Sunday 11 a.m. – 5 p.m.

Ark Arts Center Museum School Sale

The Arkansas Arts Center Museum School will be having its annual Sale on Saturday, November 17 from 9am to 3pm at the Clear Channel Metroplex.

Dozens of Museum School students and faculty (and faculty who are also students) will be selling artwork in all varieties of shapes, sizes, media and price ranges.  It is a perfect chance to get a start on holiday shopping as well as to support local artists.  Several of the artists have been taking classes and selling at the sale for years, while there will be others who are first timers.   Artists accept cash and checks.

Arkansas Arts Center members will have a special preview party on Friday, November 16 from 6pm to 9pm.  In addition to browsing, there will be light hors d’oeuvres and refreshments available while the members shop.  Memberships will be available for purchase at the door.