Tag Archives: Arkansas Arts Center

Little Rock Look Back: Arkansas Arts Center concludes opening festivities with Beaux Arts Ball

Starting at 9:00 p.m. on May 18, 1963, the Beaux Arts Ball capped off the opening weekend festivities for the Arkansas Arts Center.

Chaired by Jeane Hamilton and Jean Gordon (both of whom are still going strong 55 years later!), the Beaux Arts Ball featured the music of Henry King and his Orchestra as well as a performance by jazz legend Dave Brubeck and his Quartet.  King played on the dance floor while Brubeck gave concerts in the theatre at 9:00 p.m., 10:15 p.m., and 11:30 p.m.

Special guests for this black tie event included  Oscar winner Joan Fontaine, cartoonist Charles Addams (creator of The Addams Family), and James Rorimer of the Metropolitan Museum of Art.

The event concluded at 1:00 a.m. as exhausted and exhilarated guests made their way home.


Little Rock Look Back: Dedication of the Arkansas Arts Center on May 18, 1963

AAC Logo in 1963

On Saturday, May 18, 1963, amidst fanfare and fans of the arts, the Arkansas Arts Center officially opened its doors.  (This was thirty-five years and three days after the Fine Arts Club had opened the first permanent art gallery in Arkansas in the Pulaski County Courthouse).

The 11:00 am dedication ceremonies on took place in the Arts Center Theatre and featured U.S. Senator J. William Fulbright (who was in the midst of championing what would soon be known as the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts), Congressman Wilbur Mills, Governor Orval Faubus, Little Rock Mayor Byron Morse, Winthrop Rockefeller and Jeanette Rockefeller.

The dedication ceremony was chaired by Jane McGehee, now known as Jane McGehee Wilson.  Earlier this month she was honored at the Arkansas Arts Center with an outstanding patron award in recognition of her work supporting the Arkansas Arts Center for close to six decades.   More information on her work for the AAC can be found here.

The Arts Center lower level in 1963

Among the exhibits at the Arkansas Arts Center for the grand opening was a special exhibit from the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York entitled Five Centuries of European Painting.  In Little Rock for six months, this exhibit featured works by El Greco, Titian, Claude Monet, Odilon Redon, Pierre Renoir, Paul Signac, Edgar Degas, and Paul Gauguin among many others and spanned from the fifteenth century Early Renaissance era to the nineteenth century.

Prior to the opening, a profile on the Arts Center in The Christian Science Monitor touted the building as one of the first regional arts centers in the country to be completed. Benefiting from national ties of the Rockefeller family, the events in May 1963, set a high standard for the institution, and for other regional art museums.

Little Rock Look Back: Media preview, Gordon MacRae concert prior to Arkansas Arts Center Opening

Photo of singer Gordon MacRae from the 1963 Arkansas Arts Center dedication booklet

On Friday, May 17, 1963, Little Rock’s media were treated to a preview of the new Arkansas Arts Center.  It was set to open to the public the next day.  The media were invited to attend between 6:30pm and 10:00pm.

One of the highlights was the chance to view the exhibit:  Five Centuries of European Painting.  The works were from the collection of the Metropolitan Museum of Arts.  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.

At 8pm that evening, there was a concert appearance by film and recording star Gordon MacRae.  This took place in the Arts Center’s theatre for Arts Center patrons. (Or at least the 389 who could get tickets to it.)  At 10pm, the press were treated to an encore performance by Mr. MacRae.

After it concluded around 11pm, it was time for the staff and volunteers to wind down for the evening and get ready for two major events on May 18, 1963.

Little Rock Look Back: Members Preview of Arkansas Arts Center on May 16, 1963

Mrs. Rockefeller

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.

$644,600 from NEA is going to the Arkansas Arts Council

In pursuit of its commitment to advance the creative capacity of people and communities across the nation, the National Endowment for the Arts announces its second round of funding for FY 2018.

This funding round includes annual partnerships with state, jurisdictional, and regional arts agencies as well as the categories of Art Works, Creativity Connects, Our Town, and Research: Art Works.

One of the grantees was the Arkansas Arts Council which will receive $644,600.  This will support arts programs, services, and activities associated with carrying out the Arkansas Arts Council’s NEA-approved strategic plan.  The Arts Council is an agency of the Department of Arkansas Heritage.

There were a total number of six (6) grants to entities in Arkansas.  These grants are worth $814,600.  As noted yesterday in a post, one of the grantees was the Arkansas Arts Center.

Earlier this year, the NEA announced its first round of grants which included $10,00 for the Arkansas Repertory Theatre to support production of The Call; $12,500 to the Arkansas Symphony Orchestra to support the Canvas Festival, which combined visual arts and the performance of live symphonic music; $10,000 to the Chamber Music Society of Little Rock to support a series of chamber music performances and related educational programming; and $25,000 to the Oxford American to support the publication and promotion of the magazine.

Dr. Jane Chu, who is the Chairman of the NEA, has announced she will be stepping down on June 4, 2018, at the conclusion of her four year term.  A graduate of Arkadelphia High School and Ouachita Baptist University, she has visited Little Rock during her tenure at the helm of the NEA.

$50,000 grant from the NEA goes to Arkansas Arts Center

National Endowment for the Arts Chairman (and former Arkansas resident) Jane Chu has approved more than $80 million in grants as part of the NEA’s second major funding announcement for fiscal year 2018. Included in this announcement is an Art Works grant of $50,000 to the Arkansas Arts Center to support the conservation of art works by John Marin.

The Art Works category is the NEA’s largest funding category and supports projects that focus on the creation of art that meets the highest standards of excellence, public engagement with diverse and excellent art, lifelong learning in the arts, and/or the strengthening of communities through the arts.

“The variety and quality of these projects speaks to the wealth of creativity and diversity in our country,” said NEA Chairman Jane Chu. “Through the work of organizations such as the Arkansas Arts Center in Little Rock, NEA funding invests in local communities, helping people celebrate the arts wherever they are.”

The Arkansas Arts Center’s 290-work collection is the second largest repository of John Marin works in the world. The collection was donated to the Arts Center by the artist’s daughter-in-law, Norma Marin, in 2013. Beginning with his 1909 debut exhibition of watercolors at Alfred Stieglitz’s 291 Gallery in New York, until his death in 1953, Marin was a major force among the cutting-edge modern artists in America. The artist was best known for his lively, idiosyncratic watercolors, etchings and oil paintings of the disparate worlds of gritty New York City and coastal Maine.

“We are incredibly grateful for this support from the NEA,” said Todd Herman, Arkansas Arts Center Executive Director. “This grant will allow us to continue to preserve this spectacular collection of works by iconic American modernist John Marin for future generations.”

Little Rock Look Back: City of Little Rock formally establishes Museum of Fine Arts

On May 6, 1935, the Little Rock City Council formally established the Museum of Fine Arts by Ordinance 5235.  The ordinance was sponsored by Alderman Henry G. Leiser.

The ordinance authorized the construction of the museum in City Park.  The money for the construction was all privately raised. Once the building was completed, it would become the property of the City.

The ordinance also created the museum’s board. The original members were named by the ordinance.  They were: Fred W. Allsopp (appointed as a life member), Mrs. Frederick Hanger, Mrs. F.B.T. Hollenberg, George B. Rose, Mrs. C.M. Taylor, Mrs. Frank Tillar, and Dr. Frank Vinsonhaler. In addition, the Mayor and President of the Fine Arts Club were ex-officio members.

The building would start construction in 1936. The groundbreaking was in January 1936, and the cornerstone was laid in October 1936. The Museum of Fine Arts opened in October 1937.