Little Rock Look Back: Arkansas Arts Center celebrates with week of Grand Reopening activities in February 2000

On February 17, 2000, over three thousand people attended the Arkansas Arts Center members preview of the new and renovated galleries as part of a week long celebration. It culminated in Big Art Weekend in which the building was open for 72 hours with around the clock programming.

Donors to the project, media, and Arkansas museum professionals had each received sneak peeks of the new facility earlier in the week. On Friday, February 18, the Big Art Weekend got underway with a gallery tour of a variety of Little Rock galleries. (This was before 2nd Friday Art Night.)  Lectures, tours, and other special events populated the building on Saturday and Sunday the 19th and 20th.  In addition, the Children’s Theatre was performing Aladdin and the Wonderful Lamp..

The renovation had taken over 18 months and cost $12 million.  It added 30,000 square feet of gallery space.  The expanded gallery space featured these exhibits: Paul Signac Watercolors and Drawings: Selections from the James T. Dyke Collection; Without Parameters: Selections from the Permanent Collection; Recent Acquisitions; Prophets, Parables and Paradoxes: Recent Drawings by David Bailin; Artistic Processes: Drawing; Living with Form: The Horn Collection of Contemporary Crafts; and European Paintings and Drawings.

The latter exhibit included eight pieces that were promised gifts from the Jackson T. Stephens collection.  They were Edgar Degas’ Dance in Blue (Before the Class, Three Dancers (c. late 1880s), Pablo Picasso’s Still Life with Red Bull’s Head (1938), Claude Monet’s Apple Trees Near Vetheuil (1878), Pierre-Auguste Renoir’s Three Partridges (c. 1888-1890), Alfred Sisley’s Road on the Edge of the Loing (1891), Camille Pissarro’s The Raised Terrace of the Pont-Neuf, Place Henri IV in Morning Rain (1902), Berthe Morisot’s The Flute Player (1890) and Bertrand Redon’s Vase of Flowers (c. 1890).

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.

Little Rock Look Back: Opening of the Arkansas Arts Center!

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 dedication ceremonies on May 18 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.

On Friday, May 17, 1963, film star Gordon MacRae performed two separate concerts in the theatre space.  There were other assorted small events and tours on May 16 and 17.

The culmination of the weekend was the Beaux Arts Bal.  This black tie event, featured Oscar winner Joan Fontaine, cartoonist Charles Addams (creator of The Addams Family), James Rorimer of the Metropolitan Museum, and Dave Brubeck.  Chaired by Jeane Hamilton, the event set a new standard for events in Little Rock.

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.

Arkansas Heritage Month – Celebrities and Celebrations open Arkansas Arts Center on May 18, 1963

AAC opening programOn 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 dedication ceremonies on May 18 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.

On Friday, May 17, 1963, film star Gordon MacRae performed two separate concerts in the theatre space.  There were other assorted small events and tours on May 16 and 17.

The culmination of the weekend was the Beaux Arts Bal.  This black tie event, featured Oscar winner Joan Fontaine, cartoonist Charles Addams (creator of The Addams Family), James Rorimer of the Metropolitan Museum, and Dave Brubeck.  Chaired by Jeane Hamilton, the event set a new standard for events in Little Rock.

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.

Spring Break Activities continue in LR

For those who stayed in town over Spring Break and may now be hearing “I’M BORED!” or “There’s Nothing to Do,” Little Rock’s cultural institutions offer plenty of activities.

CPC42 SpringbreakThe Clinton Presidential Center is partnering with the Arkansas Symphony Orchestra on an Instrumental Petting Zoo for kids Pre-K through 5th grade. For those in 6th through 12th grades, there is a “Blazing Angels: Squadrons of WWII” video game free play with a tournament on Saturday.  The hours of the Petting Zoo and the Blazing Angels are from 10am to 2pm through Friday.  While at the Clinton Presidential Center, visitors can take in the Presidential Pets exhibit as well as the “Spies, Traitors and Saboteurs: Fear and Freedom in America” exhibit which is in on loan from the International Spy Museum in Washington DC.

BoyWolfThe Arkansas Arts Center galleries are open featuring the exhibits “The Crossroads of Memory: Carroll Cloar and The American South,” “Woodworking Instructors Exhibition,” “Paul Signac Watercolors and Drawings: The James T. Dyke Collection,” “Earthly Delights: Modern and Contemporary Highlights from The Permanent Collection,” “Ties That Bind: Southern Art from the Collection” and “Art In Context.”  In addition, the Arkansas Arts Center Children’s Theatre is presenting The Boy Who Cried Wolf for its final performances today and tomorrow at 2pm.

sid scienceThe Museum of Discovery has partnered with Arkansas Educational Television Network (AETN) to bring Sid the Science kid to the museum on Thursday, March 27, and Friday, March 28. Visitors can meet and have their photo taken with Sid and participate in science experiments seen on the popular science show. Sid will meet visitors both days from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. The Museum of Discovery is offering spring break visitors the chance to enjoy science demonstrations and animal programs on the museum floor in addition to the 90 hands-on exhibits and the current temporary exhibit, Tech City.