Planning to create Arkansas Arts Center authorized by City of Little Rock

Twenty-two years after authorizing the creation of the Museum of Fine Arts in City Park, the Little Rock City Council was asked to consider expanding the facility.

By 1957, the existing structure was felt to be inadequate.   There was a desire for more gallery space as well as for more space for educational programming.

On July 8, 1957, the Little Rock City Council passed an ordinance authorizing the Board of the Museum of Fine Arts to be able to raise the funds for an expansion.  This was merely the start of the process which would eventually lead to the creation of the Arkansas Arts Center.

The ordinance allowed for the expansion or extension of the building. It also authorized the museum’s board to accept gifts for the project and to invest those gifts for the purpose of the museum.  Since the museum only received City funds for maintenance and salary, the ability to raise funds for the expansion was key to the future of the institution.

Lastly, the ordinance gave the museum’s board the ability to increase its membership by up to six positions without having to get additional approval by the City Council.  With a fundraising drive underway and a larger facility planned, these additional board members could certainly prove to be key.

The ordinance passed with nine Ayes, zero Noes, and one absent.

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126 Years of MacArthur Park in Little Rock

On July 4, 1893, Arsenal Park opened in Little Rock.  This was the City’s first municipal public park.  Though it predated the establishment of a formal Parks and Recreation Department by several decades, it is the oldest part of that department.

The land now known as MacArthur Park had originally served as a horse racetrack in the early days of Little Rock.  By 1836, the federal government purchased the land for construction of a military arsenal.  The flagship building, the Arsenal Tower building, is the only remaining structure from that time period.

The land served as a military outpost until 1892.  On April 23, 1892, a land swap took place where in the City of Little Rock was given the property with the stipulation that it would be “forever exclusively devoted to the uses and purposes of a public park.” (Never mind that the federal government took part of the land back for the construction of the Wilbur Mills Freeway.)  Congressman William L. Terry was active in negotiating the land swap. (His son David would also serve in Congress.)

In return for giving the City this land, the federal government took possession of land on the north side of the Arkansas River (then part of Little Rock) – that 1,000 acres became Fort Logan H. Roots.

The park officially opened on July 4, 1893, with the name Arsenal Park. Since it was the City’s first and only park at the time, residents started referring to it as City Park. In time, the designation Arsenal Park fell from use.  In fact, it is referred to as City Park exclusively and officially in City documents throughout the first 42 years of the 20th Century.

On March 9, 1942, Little Rock’s first public park was renamed by the Little Rock City Council.  By a vote of fourteen ayes, zero nays and four absent, the alderman approved Ordinance 6,388 which renamed the park in honor of General Douglas MacArthur.

In 1952, General MacArthur (contemplating a run for the GOP nomination for President) visited Little Rock in March.  Later that year, the eventual GOP nominee (and 34th US President) General Dwight Eisenhower visited the park.

Today, MacArthur Park is the anchor of the burgeoning MacPark district as well as the MacArthur Park Historic Distric.

Final day to visit current Arkansas Arts Center galleries

At 5pm today, the galleries of the Arkansas Arts Center will close in MacArthur Park. They will not reopen until sometime in the first half of 2022.

While Arkansas Arts Center programming will continue in its Riverdale location and at various partner sites, the galleries, as they have been configured since February 2000, will be changed forever.  When the Arkansas Arts Center reopens in MacArthur Park, there will be new gallery spaces.

The current exhibits are:

  • Pop! Out of the Vault: Andy Warhol’s Little Red Book
  • Then, Now, Next: Reimagining the Arkansas Arts Center
  • 58th Young Arkansas Artists Exhibition
  • 61st Annual Delta Exhibition

Today also marks the final chance to eat at Watercolor in the Park.  Though the famous Petit and Keet Sunday Brunch will continue at the namesake restaurant, this will be the final time to enjoy it in MacArthur Park.

Museum School classes and youth summer programming will continue in MacArthur Park through the remainder of the summer sessions.  The Museum School will start the Autumn Quarter of classes in the new Riverdale location in September.

The Quapaw Quarter Association 55th Spring Tour of Homes is this weekend

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This weekend, Join the QQA for the 55th Spring Tour of Homes in MacArthur Park, Little Rock’s oldest historic district. Visit the Mills-Davis House and the Bracy-Manning House on sixth street, the Holtzman-Vinsonhaler house on 9th street, and others.

Tickets

Candlelight Tour, Dinner & Silent Auction ($150.00)
Mother’s Day Brunch ($60.00)

Dates & Times
May 11, 2019
Tour starts at 12:00 pm – 4:00 pm

Candlelight Tour, Dinner & Silent Auction starts 5:00 pm – 9:30 pm (located at the Arkansas Arts Center)

May 12, 2019
Mother’s Day Brunch 11:00 am — 1:00 pm (located at Curran Hall, 615 E. Capitol)
Tour 1:00 pm — 5:00 pm

Check-in Sites
Curran Hall, 615 E Capitol Ave, Little Rock, AR 72202.
MacArthur Park, outside the MacArthur Museum of Arkansas Military History, 503 E 9th St, Little Rock, AR 72202.
The Patrick Powers House, 1402 Commerce, Little Rock, AR 72202.

Start of Little Rock’s park system with land swap to create Arsenal Park

April 23, 1892, marked the beginning of the City of Little Rock’s public park sLR City Parkystem.  On that date, the City officially took possession of land which would become what is now known as MacArthur Park.

The park land had originally served as a horse racetrack in the early days of Little Rock.  By 1836, the federal government purchased the land for construction of a military arsenal.  The flagship building, the Arsenal Tower building, is the only remaining structure from that time period.

The land served as a military outpost until 1892.  On April 23, 1892, a land swap took place where in the City of Little Rock was given the property with the stipulation that it would be “forever exclusively devoted to the uses and purposes of a public park.” (Never mind that the federal government took part of the land back for the construction of the Wilbur Mills Freeway.)  In return for giving the City this land, the federal government took possession of land on the north side of the Arkansas River (then part of Little Rock) – that 1,000 acres became Fort Logan H. Roots.

After clearing most of the buildings from the land and preparing it for recreation, the park opened on July 4, 1893, with the name Arsenal Park. Since it was the City’s first and only park at the time, residents started referring to it as City Park. In time, the designation Arsenal Park fell from use.  In fact, it is referred to as City Park exclusively and officially in City documents throughout the first 42 years of the 20th Century.

The City Council’s action to name it MacArthur Park in March 1942, was accompanied by petitions encouraging the action which were submitted by the Arkansas Authors and Composers Society, the Arkansas Engineers Club and the Pulaski County Republican Central Committee.

City records do not indicate if anyone registered opposition to the name change. It would be another decade before General MacArthur would return to the site of his birth, a place he had not visited since his infancy.