Reimagined Arkansas Arts Center Revealed

Author: Arkansas Arts CenterFiled under: Building

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Transformational changes are coming to the Arkansas Arts Center, Executive Director Todd Herman announced Tuesday. Alongside architect Jeanne Gang of Studio Gang and landscape architect Kate Orff of SCAPE, Herman presented a striking architectural design that strengthens the connections between the visual and performing arts in an inclusive space that welcomes a diverse community.

“This an exciting moment for the Arkansas Arts Center, central Arkansas, and the entire state,” Herman said. “The reimagined Arts Center will be a welcoming place that encourages prolonged and meaningful interaction with the collection and programs at the Arts Center. It is intended to be a gathering place for the community that highlights the interplay between the AAC and the surrounding park.”

The Arkansas Arts Center welcomes more than 200,000 visitors annually to its facility in historic MacArthur Park. Roughly 40,000 children and families and over 200 schools from across the state use the Children’s Theatre each year.

“The AAC is well-loved and has been well-used,” Herman said. “The building has held up well, but this renovation and expansion is needed for the Arts Center to be the kind of community resource that meets the changing expectations of our visitors, our growing world-class art collection and art school, and to continue offering groundbreaking educational programs to a diverse community.”

The Arkansas Arts Center concept design features 127,000 square feet of renovated and new spaces. New areas include a versatile indoor/outdoor restaurant overlooking MacArthur Park, a new north entrance reveals the original 1937 Museum of Fine Arts façade, a second floor of galleries, expanded art studios and art school gallery, a new drawing research center and conservation lab, a dedicated black box theater, and expanded education spaces, including a family art adventure space. A flexible Cultural Living Room can serve as an extension of the galleries, event space, or community gathering space with bar and lounge seating enjoying a view north across downtown Little Rock.

The design will increase visitor services by 81 percent, exhibitions and collections management by 25 percent and education, public programs and the Museum School by 50 percent.

“Because the Arkansas Arts Center is made up of eight additions to the 1937 Museum of Fine Arts, it’s a very complicated puzzle,” Herman said. “We have the right architects and the right landscape architects to transform our institution into a destination for arts education and a hub that connects the programs of the AAC with newly designed outdoor spaces.”

The concept design developed by Studio Gang lends a new, highly visible architectural identity to the Arts Center. Reorganizing and ordering the current program and architectural envelope, Studio Gang has designed a pleated, organic architecture that connects the new north-facing city entrance with the new glass pavilion and south-facing park entrance to create an open axis public gallery through the building, connecting the program components of the AAC.

“Starting from the inside out, the design clarifies the organization of the building and extends its presence into MacArthur Park and out to Crescent Lawn,” said Gang. “By doing so, the Center becomes a vibrant place for social interaction, education, and appreciation for the arts.”

Throughout the project, sustainable practices are being applied in both the materials and mechanical systems of the building and the landscape elements featuring native plants and rainwater reclamation.

The Arts Center’s transformation will also extend to MacArthur Park, bringing new outdoor amenities to the park. Herman and Orff presented a vision of the Arkansas Arts Center as a “museum within the forest.” Drawing inspiration from Little Rock’s unique regional ecologies – including the banks of Fourche Creek, the bluffs of Emerald Park, and the agrarian landscapes of the Mississippi Delta – the landscape design features inviting outdoor spaces that contribute to AAC’s emerging role as a cultural beacon for Arkansas.

New public plazas and gardens at the north and south entrances of the Arts Center will foster deeper connections with the park. Planted groves along the west side of the building will create a forested edge that blends into the park. A framework of new trees will, over time, merge with the existing canopy to form a park forest.

“The site design will rejuvenate and expand the connection between the AAC to MacArthur Park, welcome and orient the Little Rock community to the grounds and weave native regional landscape forms into the existing park,” Orff said.

The construction budget is $70 million coming from a combination of public and private funds, with groundbreaking scheduled for fall 2019. The project is anticipated to be completed in early 2022. During construction, the Arts Center is working with arts partners to provide programming in locations throughout the city. The “Arts Center Outside the Box” idea will allow staff to explore new programs in new spaces while still offering some of its favorite programs.

“In addition to adding to the quality of life and increasing educational opportunities in our community, arts institutions add to the economic vitality of a city,” Herman said. “More people visited art museums in the United States last year than attended every NFL and NBA game combined. In two recent studies conducted by the American Alliance of Museums, data shows that museums contribute $50 billion to the U.S. economy and generate more than $12 billion a year in tax revenue. We expect that this project will set Little Rock apart from similar sized cities and be an essential partner in building our economic future.”

In February 2016, Little Rock residents voted in favor of bonding the revenue from a 2 percent tax on lodging paid primarily by out of town visitors for the benefit of the Arkansas Arts Center, the MacArthur Museum of Arkansas Military History and Historic MacArthur Park. The Arkansas Arts Center has undergone eight additions since its 1937 opening as the Museum of Fine Arts. Renamed the Arkansas Arts Center in 1960, the organization accepted a renewed mission to serve the entire state. The renovated building will continue to serve the community with the Museum, Museum School, Children’s Theatre and Statewide ArtsReach Programs. The most recent addition to the facility was in 2001.

Studio Gang was selected as design architect out of five finalist firms in December 2016 due to their elegant and smart approach to architecture, understanding of the issues posed by the AAC’s current facility, vision for the Arts Center as a cultural beacon for Central Arkansas, and commitment to sustainability and strength as urban planners.

Studio Gang is an architecture and urban design practice based in Chicago, New York, and San Francisco. Founded by Architect and MacArthur Fellow Jeanne Gang and recognized internationally for a design process that foregrounds the relationships between individuals, communities, and environments, Studio Gang produces award-winning work that ranges in scale from the 82-story Aqua Tower to the 14-acre Nature Boardwalk at Lincoln Park Zoo. Recent projects include the new United States Embassy in Brasilia, Brazil; a unified campus for the California College of the Arts in San Francisco, California; and an expansion to the American Museum of Natural History in New York City. Intertwined with its built work, Studio Gang develops research and related projects such as publications, exhibitions, and events that push design’s ability to create public awareness and lead to change – a practice Jeanne calls “actionable idealism.” These include Civic Commons, a multi-city project reimagining public buildings across the United States, and Reverse Effect, an advocacy publication produced to spark a greener future for the Chicago River. This is Studio Gang’s first project in Arkansas.

SCAPE is a design-driven landscape architecture and urban design studio based in New York. They believe landscape architecture can enable positive change in communities through the creation of regenerative living infrastructure and public landscapes. SCAPE works to integrate natural cycles and systems into environments across all scales, from the urban pocket-park to the regional ecological plan. They do this through diverse forms of landscape architecture – built landscapes, planning frameworks, research, books, and installations – with the ultimate goal of connecting people to their immediate environment and creating dynamic and adaptive landscapes of the future.

Little Rock-based Polk Stanley Wilcox Architects was selected as associate architect for the renovation project in February 2017. Polk Stanley Wilcox is working in partnership with Studio Gang Architects on a reimagined Arkansas Arts Center. Polk Stanley Wilcox has previously worked on a number of local projects, including the William J. Clinton Presidential Library, Heifer International Headquarters, the Arkansas Studies Institute and the recently opened Robinson Center expansion and renovation. The firm also has experience working with clients in a variety of industries and focuses on sustainability and creating buildings that operate on minimal energy usage.

The leadership phase of a capital campaign to maximize the impact of public dollars dedicated to the project is currently underway. Arts Center officials expect to announce fundraising updates later in the year.

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Delta Exhibition jurors announced; entry deadline extended

Author: Arkansas Arts CenterFiled under: Delta Exhibition, Exhibitions, Museum

Celebrating the exhibition’s 60th year with a return to its roots, the 60th Annual Delta Exhibition will be juried by a panel of three distinguished art professionals: Bradbury Art Museum director Les Christensen, conceptual artist Shea Hembrey, and Baum Gallery director Brian K. Young.

Leslie Ann (Les) Christensen is Director of the Bradbury Art Museum at Arkansas State University, a position she has held since 2001. Trained as a sculptor working with a variety of media, Christensen’s artwork has appeared in six previous Delta Exhibitions; her Portrait with Fur Collar won an Honorable Mention in the 29th Annual Delta Exhibition (1986).

Shea Hembrey is an American conceptual artist. An advocate for artwork that “marries intellectual rigor, technical mastery, and heart and soul,” Hembrey earned his Master of Fine Arts degree from Cornell University, Ithaca, New York. In 2011 he received national attention with the release of “seek,” a biennial of art, which contained artwork by 100 artists – all of whom were invented by Hembrey and for which he created the artwork. That same year he delivered a TED talk entitled, “How I Became 100 Artists,” which has since been viewed more than 1.5 million times. Hembrey lives and works in Hickory Grove, Arkansas.

Brian K. Young earned his Bachelor of Arts degree in Art History from the University of Michigan, Ann Arbor, Michigan, and his Master of Arts degree in Art History from The Ohio State University, Columbus, Ohio. Since August 2016, Young has served as the Director of the Baum Gallery, University of Central Arkansas, Conway, Arkansas, where is also a lecturer in the Department of Art. Prior to joining the Baum Gallery, Young worked as a curator at several institutions, including: the Arkansas Arts Center, Little Rock, Arkansas; the Academy Art Museum, Easton, Maryland; the University of Maryland University College, Adelphi, Maryland; and Johns Hopkins Medical Institutions, Baltimore, Maryland.

The deadline to enter work to be considered for the exhibition will be extended to February 26. The competition is open to all artists who live in or were born in one of the following states: Arkansas, Louisiana, Mississippi, Missouri, Oklahoma, Tennessee or Texas. All work must be completed during the last two years and must not have been exhibited previously at the Arkansas Arts Center.

Showcasing artists living and working in Arkansas and its border states, the Annual Delta Exhibition presents a vision of contemporary art in the American South. Founded in 1958, the exhibition provides a unique snapshot of the Delta region and features work in all media. On view May 25 through August 26, 2018, the exhibition reflects the region’s strong traditions of craftsmanship and observation, combined with an innovative use of materials and an experimental approach to subject matter.

The panel of jurors will select the artworks to be exhibited as well as a $2,500 Grand Award and two $750 Delta Awards. Additionally, a $250 Contemporaries Delta Award will be selected by the Contemporaries, an auxiliary membership group of the Arkansas Arts Center.

Interested parties may enter their information and upload images of their work at by February 26, 2018. The entry fee is $20 for one entry and $10 for each additional entry. Artists may submit up to three entries. Notifications will be sent March 16 and all accepted work must be received by April 18. Artists will be responsible for all shipping arrangements.

The 60th Annual Delta Exhibition is sponsored (at this time) by Isabel and John Ed Anthony; The Brown Foundation, Inc., of Houston; Mrs. Lisenne Rockefeller; Terri and Chuck Erwin; Friday, Eldredge & Clark, LLP; the AAC Contemporaries; and Barbara House. The Grand Award is supported by The John William Linn Endowment Fund. The exhibition is supported by the Andre Simon Memorial Trust in memory of everyone who has died of acquired immune deficiency syndrome (AIDS).

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American Modernism from the Arkansas Arts Center Collection

Author: Arkansas Arts CenterFiled under: Beacon Content, Collection, Exhibitions, Museum

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Interested in more art by American Modernists after visiting Becoming John Marin: Modernist at Work? The exhibition features 114 works exploring Marin’s evolution from intuitive draftsman to innovative watercolorist and etcher. But Marin was only one of an influential group of artists – commonly referred to as the “Stieglitz Circle” for their association with photographer, art dealer and gallerist Alfred Stieglitz – working in and around New York in the first half of the 20th century. Stieglitz and his galleries took a leading role introducing America to modernism. In these galleries, you will find work by several artists who were also promoted by Stieglitz and showed work at the famed 291 Gallery – and at Stieglitz’s later galleries, The Intimate Gallery and An American Place.


Abraham Walkowitz

A lesser-known name, but still a critical member of the Stieglitz Circle, Abraham Walkowitz is best known for creating more than 5,000 watercolors of modern dancer Isadora Duncan. In addition to Abstraction, which is on view now, the Arkansas Arts Center Collection includes several of Walkowitz’s watercolors featuring Duncan.

Abraham Walkowitz, American (Tyumen, Russia, 1878 – 1965, Brooklyn, New York), Abstraction, 1912, graphite and crayon on paper, 12 1/2 x 8 1/8 inches, Arkansas Arts Center Foundation Collection: Gift of Zabriskie Gallery. 1993.015.001


Peggy Bacon

Peggy Bacon’s caricature of Alfred Stieglitz captures the photographer in his signature black cape. Bacon was particularly well known for her often-humorous caricatures of famous personalities in the 1920s and 1930s. The Arkansas Arts Center Collection also includes a caricature of Stieglitz’s second wife, modern artist Georgia O’Keeffe, by Bacon.

Peggy Bacon, American (Ridgefield, Connecticut, 1895 – 1987, Kennebunk, Maine), Alfred Stieglitz, circa 1930, charcoal on paper, 18 1/4 x 15 1/2 inches, Arkansas Arts Center Foundation Collection: Purchased with Gallery Contributions. 1989.018

Edward Steichen

Photographer and painter Edward Steichen served as a European talent scout for Stieglitz, introducing Stieglitz to interesting modernism by both European artists and Americans abroad, including John Marin. Steichen was one of American’s greatest photographers, making both fine art and commercial images, and also became a pioneering curator of photography.

Edward Steichen, American (Bivange, Luxembourg, 1879 – 1973, West Redding, Connecticut), The Maypole (Empire State Building), 1932, printed 1981-1982, gelatin silver print, 13 1/2 x 11 inches, Arkansas Arts Center Foundation Collection: Gift of Diane and Sanford M. Besser and Irene and George H. Davis. 1983.004.021

Arthur Dove

Arthur Dove was perhaps the first American painter to fully embrace abstraction. His abstract work remains based in nature, however. As he had with Marin, Stieglitz championed Dove’s work and showed it annually.

Arthur Dove, American (Canandaigua, New York, 1880 – 1946, Long Island, New York), Abstraction, Untitled, circa 1917-1920, charcoal on paper, 20 7/8 x 17 1/2 inches, Arkansas Arts Center Foundation Collection: Purchase, Tabriz Fund and with a gift from the Dove Estate. 1982.016

John Marin

Draftsman, watercolorist and etcher John Marin is one of America’s iconic modernists. The etching is a recent purchase by the Arkansas Arts Center, adding to the 290 works by John Marin given to the Arts Center by the artist’s daughter-in-law, Norma Marin. For more by John Marin, visit the exhibition Becoming John Marin: Modernist at Work, on view through April 22. You can also learn more about Marin’s life and work here.

John Marin, American (Rutherford, New Jersey, 1870 – 1953, Cape Split, Maine), Lower Manhattan from the Bridge, 1931, etching on Whatman paper, 7 x 9 11/16 inches, Arkansas Arts Center Foundation Collection: Purchase, Tabriz Fund. 2015.031.002

The Arkansas Arts Center Foundation Collection also includes works by several other Stieglitz circle artists, including Georgia O’Keeffe, Marsden Hartley and Max Weber. The art on view in the Arkansas Arts Center Collection galleries is always changing – visit again soon to see works by these artists.

Haven’t been to see Becoming John Marin yet? You can find the exhibition in the Jeannette Edris Rockefeller and Townsend Wolfe galleries through April 22.

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Arkansas Arts Center shines new light on John Marin drawings

Author: Arkansas Arts CenterFiled under: Exhibitions, Museum

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The artistic evolution of an iconic American modernist is the focus of a new exhibition opening January 26 at the Arkansas Arts Center. Featuring never-before-exhibited drawings and watercolors from the Arkansas Arts Center Collection, Becoming John Marin: Modernist at Work explores the artist’s transformation from intuitive draftsman to innovative watercolorist and etcher.

A revelatory new look at Marin’s work, Becoming John Marin affords a unique opportunity to see finished watercolors, etchings and oil paintings reunited with the sketches on which they were based for the first time outside the artist’s studio.

“Drawing was central to Marin’s artistic process, and he made thousands throughout his career,” exhibition curator Ann Prentice Wagner, Ph.D. said, “Becoming John Marin looks over the artist’s shoulder as he created and honed the private sketches he would interpret into completed watercolors and etchings.”

John Marin, American (Rutherford, New Jersey, 1870 – 1953, Cape Split, Maine), Woolworth Building Under Construction, 1912, watercolor and graphite on textured watercolor paper, 19 5/8 x 15 3/8 in., Arkansas Arts Center Foundation Collection: Gift of Norma B. Marin, New York, New York, 2013.018.011 (catalog 101)

As the second largest repository of John Marin works in the world, the Arkansas Arts Center’s 290-work collection is surpassed only by that of the National Gallery of Art in Washington, D.C. Becoming John Marin: Modernist at Work features 79 works from this exceptional collection, donated to the Arts Center by the artist’s daughter-in-law, Norma Marin, in 2013, and recently conserved with support from The Henry Luce Foundation, Luce Fund in American Art. They will be shown alongside 33 distinguished Marin works loaned by outstanding public and private collections, including Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art, the National Gallery of Art, the Philadelphia Museum of Art, the Columbus Museum of Art, the Metropolitan Museum of Art, the Colby College Museum of Art, and the Phillips Collection, among others.

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 who gathered around Stieglitz. 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.

John Marin, American (Rutherford, New Jersey, 1870 – 1953, Cape Split, Maine), On Mount Desert, Maine, 1920, watercolor and charcoal with graphite on textured watercolor paper, 14 x 16 ¾ in., Arkansas Arts Center Foundation Collection: Gift of Norma B. Marin, New York, New York, 2013.018.142 (catalog 50)

In 1948, a Look magazine survey of museum directors, curators, and art critics selected Marin as the greatest painter in America. But Marin’s early years had not foreshadowed any such recognition. Until age 40, he was unsure of how he wanted to make his living. The young Marin shifted between working for a wholesale notions house, training and working as an architect in his native New Jersey, and attending the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts, and later the Art Students League in New York. From 1905 to 1909, he lived in Paris and made picturesque etchings of European architecture for the tourist trade. But one overriding passion was always there for Marin – drawing. He said, “I just drew. I drew every chance I got.”

​While in Paris, Marin was discovered by Edward Steichen, photographer and talent scout for Alfred Stieglitz. Settling in New York, Marin showed work annually at Stieglitz’s galleries – 291, The Intimate Gallery, and An American Place. Stieglitz became Marin’s dealer, promoter, mentor and friend. Marin’s drawings occasionally appeared in exhibitions, but most were informal, private documents made for his own creative purposes. In rural places, where he could work undisturbed and simply make a watercolor on the spot without a preparatory sketch, he made few drawings. But on the teeming sidewalks of New York, he often drew on inexpensive 8-by-10 inch writing pads the artist could afford to buy in large numbers. Marin accumulated piles of sketchbooks that he consulted as sources for finished works he made in his studio.

“These working drawings give us invaluable insights into Marin’s creative process,” Wagner said. “The on-the-spot sketches are priceless. They capture the artist’s initial ideas about subjects he went on to paint or depict in prints – like the Brooklyn Bridge and the New York skyline.”

Marin – who was trained as an architect – made unexpectedly precise drawings of Manhattan’s towering skyscrapers and bridges. Other drawings were experiments in visually fragmenting forms to creative expressive modernist compositions. But most of Marin’s New York drawings were quick, vigorous notations recording the forces and motions he felt in the buildings and figures around him. He caught fleeting glimpses of rushed pedestrians or flying trapeze artists performing under the big top. The exhibition also follows the artist to lesser-known places – the cliffs outside New York City known as the Palisades – and to lesser-known subjects – portraits of friends and family and charming drawings of zoo and circus animals.

John Marin, American (Rutherford, New Jersey, 1870 – 1953, Cape Split, Maine), Blue Shark, 1922, watercolor and charcoal on textured watercolor paper, 12 1/8 x 16 1/8 in., Arkansas Arts Center Foundation Collection: Gift of Norma B. Marin, New York, New York. 2013.018.085 (catalog 211)

“Most of his informal drawings and watercolor sketches have rarely been seen outside his studio,” Wagner said. “These very personal images let us travel with Marin through the crowded streets of New York, along the rocky shores of Maine, and into the cluttered creative space of his studio.”

Wagner, Curator of Drawings at the Arkansas Arts Center, edited the accompanying catalog and narrative website. The fully illustrated catalog features the complete, recently conserved John Marin Collection at the Arkansas Arts Center, and includes essays by Wagner, Josephine White Rodgers, Ph.D., Research Assistant, Drawings, Prints and Graphic Design, Cooper Hewitt, Smithsonian Design Museum, along with other Marin authorities. The narrative website,, launching this month, will feature thorough analysis of Marin’s favorite subjects, from New York’s Woolworth Building to Small Point, Maine. The website will guide viewers through Marin’s life and work, exploring some of the artist’s favorite subjects – places he depicted time and time again – with a focus on how his work evolved throughout his career.

Becoming John Marin: Modernist at Work was organized by the Arkansas Arts Center. Becoming John Marin: Modernist at Work is sponsored (at this time) by: The Henry Luce Foundation, Luce Fund in American Art; The Arkansas Arts Center Foundation; Windgate Charitable Foundation; In Memory of John R. Fletcher by Judy W. Fletcher; Laura Sandage Harden and Lon Clark; JCT Trust; Philip R. Jonsson Foundation; Holleman & Associates, P.A.; Barbara House, and Mid-Southern Watercolorists.

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Arkansas Arts Center welcomes new development staff

Author: Arkansas Arts CenterFiled under: Faculty & Staff, Support, Volunteer

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Leighanne Alford

The Arkansas Arts Center announces the addition of Leighanne Alford and Angela Stroud to the Development team.

“We are thrilled to welcome Leighanne and Angela to the Arkansas Arts Center team,” said Kelly Fleming, director of development. “Both Leighanne and Angela have extensive professional experience in fundraising and building relationships for a variety of organizations.”

Leighanne Alford joins the Arts Center as Donor Stewardship and Volunteer Coordinator. Alford has 11 years of experience in nonprofit fundraising and development, having worked with area organizations Garvan Woodland Gardens, Arkansas Foodbank, Cystic Fibrosis Foundation of Arkansas, and the Arkansas Repertory Theatre.

Angela Stroud

Alford was born and raised in Benton, Ark. and attended Hendrix College, where she graduated with a degree in Psychology. 

Angela Stroud joins the Arts Center as Development Officer, bringing with her more than 16 years of fundraising and relationship building experience. Prior to joining the Arkansas Arts Center, she was a Business Development Officer for Centennial Bank. Stroud is the secretary for Little Rock Mid-Town Rotary, a sustaining member of the North Little Rock Junior League, Treasurer for Sylvan Hills High School Alumni Board, and an Ambassador for the Little Rock Regional Chamber of Commerce.

An Arkansas native, Stroud is a graduate of Sylvan Hills High School and John Brown University.

“The entire Arts Center staff looks forward working to with Angela and Leighanne as they continue to build the strong foundation that will launch the Arts Center into a bright future,” Fleming said.

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Meet the Artist: Perception Pool

Author: Arkansas Arts CenterFiled under: Events

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Perception Pool delighted viewers at its unveiling at the Contemporaries’ 5th Annual Fountain Fest October 19! The installation was devised and designed by a team of architects at Polk Stanley Wilcox led by Heather Davis – we caught up with Heather to give us the scoop on Perception Pool, from inspiration to execution.

What was the inspiration for Perception Pool?

Perception Pool is conceived as a metaphor for why and how art is experienced. Art is inherently subjective, as each viewer’s perception of a work of art is shaped by one’s own unique experiences, values, emotions, and surroundings. Whether the subject matter is familiar or foreign, clear or abstracted – experiencing art is an active and dynamic process that is amplified or hindered by a variety of contextual and personal factors. Our perception of a work of art, then, is truly a reflection of ourselves in a place and time.

As an architect, how did you approach this project?

As architects, we work to create an experience for our clients and the public through the built environment. In our first team meeting on this project, we decided to try to create an installation that is also experiential. Rather than a piece contained within the fountain for viewing, we really wanted our installation to invite the viewer to walk up, interact and discover.

How did you create this installation?

After receiving word that our entry was selected as the winner, our first step was to take detailed measurements of the fountain and adjust our 3D digital model to ensure the scale was accurate. Next, we went to work exploring building materials and creating physical prototypes to achieve the desired effect. Within our digital model, we divided each fin into segments to fit on 4 x 8 foot sheets of plywood, then sent the files to CDI Contractors, who cut the shapes for us on their CNC router. We assembled the plywood segments using wood screws, then covered those segments with reflective mylar film. We also constructed a support structure made from 2x material, which is concealed beneath the water and within the fin segments. The final step was transporting the structure and segments from our warehouse and installing them on the fountain. Over 20 people helped when available throughout the construction and install process – it was truly a group effort!

What were the biggest challenges in creating and building Perception Pool?

Time was definitely our biggest challenge! The majority of the construction had to be done on weekends and after-hours so that we could keep up with regular work, so it has been a busy few weeks.

What’s your favorite thing about this installation?

I love that it’s appearance varies based on the direction from which it is viewed, as well as who/what is being reflected!  It is a variety of experiences in one installation.

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5 Reasons You Can’t Miss #FountainFest5

Author: Arkansas Arts CenterFiled under: Events

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Fountain Fest is back for its 5th anniversary celebration! As one of our most anticipated events of the year, Fountain Fest returns to the Carrie Remmel Dickinson Fountain October 19, featuring food, music, art and libations, all centered around the reveal of a surprise installation in the fountain. Fountain Fest is the can’t-miss party of the fall! Still don’t believe us? Here are five reasons you can’t miss Fountain Fest 5:

1. Fountain

The centerpiece of this great event, the Carrie Remmel Dickinson Fountain is graced with a stunning new installation each October. This year, a team from Polk Stanley Wilcox Architects have devised, designed and installed a beautiful work of art in the fountain in front of the Arts Center. See their work unveiled Thursday evening!

2. Food 

Canvas restaurant is serving up sliders, pimiento cheese and more. Lost Forty is bring chips and salsa (and beer, don’t worry). And if that weren’t enough, Loblolly Creamery is bringing ice cream for dessert. They’ve even created Fountain Fizz (Peach Bellini) ice cream just for Fountain Fest.

3. Fun

Fountain Fest features all the makings of a great party! Lost Forty and Stone’s Throw are bringing beer. Roxor Gin is serving creative cocktails. Local musical duo Luke Johnson and Brian Nahlen will be making music all evening. Create art and play art-themed games with Museum School instructors and students. Strike a pose with shadow puppets, courtesy of the Children’s Theatre!

4. Fate

Do tempt fate – we have a beautiful Louis Vuitton purse and a bottle of Pappy Van Winkle 23yr Bourbon up for raffle. You don’t have to be present to win, but why wouldn’t you be? Raffle tickets are $10 each – you can find them at here or at the event.


As in, you’ll be experiencing a lot of FOMO if you miss out on any of Fountain Fest. So don’t! Get your tickets now, and we’ll see you on Thursday!

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Year of Milestones, Accomplishments Celebrated on Eclipse Day

Author: Arkansas Arts CenterFiled under: Artmobile, Building, Children's Theatre, Collection, Community, Education, Events, Exhibitions, General, Museum, Museum School, Theater on Tour, Traveling Exhibitions

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The Arkansas Arts Center finished its seventh consecutive year in the black this June, Executive Director Todd Herman announced at the August 21 Annual Meeting. It was a year of milestone accomplishments, including a 10-year reaccreditation, selection of an architectural team for the AAC building project, completion of a five-year strategic plan, and a successful Tabriz.

The AAC also rebranded its onsite restaurant, Canvas, updating both the restaurant and Museum Shop spaces, and launched a new ecommerce website allowing patrons the convenience of integrated shopping carts, personalized benefits for members and online season ticket reservations, resulting in an improved user experience.

“Our staff has worked tirelessly over the past fiscal year to enhance the visitor experience, expand audiences and deepen engagement with our community,” Executive Director Todd Herman said. “Those efforts have been recognized by the American Alliance of Museums as well as our members and patrons through strong attendance for exhibitions and programs, and generous support of our fundraising efforts and events. We are very proud of everything we have accomplished.”

The Arkansas Arts Center was awarded reaccreditation by the American Alliance of Museums in February. Of the nation’s estimated 35,000 museums, just over 1,000 are currently accredited. Accreditation signifies excellence to the museum community, to governments, funders, outside agencies, and to the museum-going public.

“We commend the Arts Center for expanding its outreach locally and statewide; this has clearly led to widespread community support and acclaim,” said Burt Logan, chair of the AAM Accreditation Commission and Executive Director and CEO of the Ohio History Commission. “Your accomplishments in fundraising, aligning resources and strengthening your relationship with the City of Little Rock demonstrate the Art Center’s leadership and positive impact on those it serves.”

Accreditation is a rigorous process that examines all aspects of a museum’s operations. To earn accreditation, a museum first must conduct a year of self-study, and then undergo a site visit by a team of peer reviewers. AAM’s Accreditation Commission, an independent and autonomous body of museum professionals, considers the self-study and visiting committee report to determine whether a museum should receive accreditation.

“They also have put the museum back on solid footing with its peer institutions, and turned the AAC into a catalyst for community pride and economic redevelopment in downtown Little Rock,” the report said “It is an impressive turnaround.”

The Arts Center also finalized the architectural team for its upcoming renovation project. Studio Gang Architects will serve as design architect, and Little Rock-based Polk Stanley Wilcox will serve as the associate architect.

Studio Gang Founder Jeanne Gang. Photo courtesy of Studio Gang.

Founded by MacArthur Fellow Jeanne Gang, Studio Gang is an award-winning architecture and urbanism practice based out of Chicago and New York. A recipient of the 2013 National Design Award, Jeanne Gang was also named the 2016 Architect of the Year by the Architectural Review and the firm was awarded the 2016 Architizer A+ award for Firm of the Year.

Studio Gang is recognized internationally for a design process that foregrounds the relationships between individuals, communities and environments. The firm has extensive knowledge in museum, theatre and artist studio spaces, with projects ranging from the Writers Theatre in Glencoe, Ill. to the Aqua Tower in Chicago to the expansion of the American Museum of Natural History in New York.

“Designing a re-envisioned Arkansas Arts Center is a truly exciting commission,” Gang said. “Its extraordinary collection, historic MacArthur Park setting, and rich mix of programs present a unique opportunity to redefine how the arts can strengthen local communities and surrounding regions. We look forward to working closely with the AAC to discover how architecture can enhance the Center’s important civic and cultural mission by creating new connections between people and the arts in Little Rock and beyond.”

“We are thrilled to partner with the Arkansas Arts Center and Studio Gang on this transformative project,” Polk Stanley Wilcox Principal David Porter said. “AAC has cast an exciting vision to rethink not only how the Center upgrades the interior and exterior spaces, but how the AAC connects to and enriches the broad arts and cultural tapestry of Little Rock. Studio Gang is a uniquely talented firm to lead the design effort. PSW is honored to bring our extensive experience from years of important projects in downtown Little Rock to come alongside them and the AAC to help create this next critical milestone for the city, state and region.”

The Arkansas Arts Center completed a five-year strategic plan this past fiscal year, outlining the goals and initiatives that will take the Arts Center into the future. The Mission, Vision, Core Values, goals and strategies contained in the plan reflect three years of data collection and community conversations that define the passion of the staff and supporters of the Arts Center.

The scope of the strategic plan covers the projected design and construction phase of the building project. Therefore, special attention is given to ‘transitional goals’ with attention also given to those strategies that will define the AAC via its new mission and vision upon re-opening.

The strategic plan is organized around six essential, shared initiatives. These key initiatives advance critical, institution-wide goals that the AAC is collectively committed to achieving. Success will result in ‘moving the needle’ in terms of civic involvement, arts education and cultural significance.

The key initiatives outlined in the plan are:

• Enhance the Visitor Experience: It is essential that our visitors experience the highest quality interaction with staff at all levels– including website and onsite navigation– and that the facility, signage, and content convey a feeling of welcome, inspiration, and engagement.
• Expand Audience and Deepen Engagement: The Arts Center must continue to promote the importance of arts and culture as an essential element of quality of life and civic development throughout all sectors of the community. It will utilize its artistic and human resources to create educational opportunities that enhance the human experience.
• Ensure Fiscal Stability: The Arts Center will work diligently and purposefully to secure the financial resources necessary to fulfill our mission, grow responsibly, and ensure our vitality for future generations.
• Elevate Visibility: Increase the profile of the Arts Center’s artistic and human resources regionally, nationally and internationally, and become a recognized leader in the arts and cultural fabric of the community.
• Encourage Innovation: Empower staff to be leaders in arts education and find creative initiatives that enhance our mission and achieve our vision.
• Embrace Diversity through Deliberate Institutional Initiatives: Recognize the spectrum of diversity within the community and reflect those backgrounds and voices throughout all levels of leadership, staff, and programs.
• Expand and Renovate the Arts Center Facility: The physical building should be a partner in our mission of engaging and energizing the public through art, both internally and externally, and should meet museum standards for care and display of our world-class collection.

Little Rock Mayor Mark Stodola recognized outgoing trustees Chucki Bradbury, Mary Ellen Irons and Shep Russell, as well as outgoing ex-officio trustees Clarke Huisman for the Contemporaries, Jamie Huffman Jones for the Junior League of Little Rock and Pat Luzzi for the docents.

Herman also took a moment to remember longtime Arts Center Executive Director Townsend Wolfe. Wolfe, who passed away January 14, served as Executive Director and Chief Curator from 1968 until 2002. In that time, he helped the Arts Center realize its potential, focusing the collection in the areas of drawing and contemporary craft. Wolfe’s legacy can be felt across the institution today.

Tabriz: Auction in the City

Also in this past fiscal year, the Arkansas Arts Center held its biennial fundraiser, Tabriz. The Thursday night “Auction in the City” was attended by 850 patrons, and 330 attended the Saturday night gala, with special entertainment by The Midtown Men. Both events raised more than $800,000 for Arts Center acquisitions and programming. Tabriz was chaired by David and Terri Snowden of Little Rock.

Statewide ArtsReach programs visited 68 communities in 43 Arkansas counties. Children’s Theatre on Tour performed 105 shows at 73 venues, and those productions were enjoyed by 38,006 people. The Artmobile traveled 2,867 miles across the state, reaching 11,470 students. In addition, the Young Arkansas Artists exhibition at the Clinton National Airport reached more than 650,000 travelers.

Over the past fiscal year, 78 lectures, gallery talks, film screenings and hands-on art-making activities were held at the Arts Center. Two major exhibitions, Herman Maril: The Strong Forms of Our Experience and Ansel Adams: Early Works, saw strong attendance with 10,972 visitors. 396 volunteers donated 9,000 hours of their time to make programming possible, the Arts Center boasted 3,359 member households and welcomed visitors from 44 states.

In the Museum School, 298 visual art classes and workshops were offered for 2,226 adult students, as well as 50 youth classes and special programs for 513 youth students, including 96 attendees of the popular annual Junior Arts Academy, now in its 21st year.

In the Children’s Theatre, 166 performances were held for 40,350 children and families, including 80 school shows for 189 schools across the state. The Children’s Theatre also offered programs for 220 students.

The Arkansas Arts Center also formed and strengthened partnerships with organizations across the community, including Booker Arts Magnet School, the UALR photography department, the Architecture and Design Network, Dillard’s Park Plaza Mall, Alzheimer’s Arkansas and Parkway Village Senior Living Community.

Herman’s presentation on Monday also highlighted the acquisition of 106 works of art, including 38 purchases and 68 donations of art. A generous bequest from the William E. Davis Estate included more than 700 items, including prints and negatives by Davis and his contemporaries.

Works from the Arkansas Arts Center Foundation Collection traveled a total of 47,280 miles to be loaned to museums across the world, including the Renwick Gallery of the Smithsonian American Art Museum in Washington, D.C., Columbus Museum of Art in Columbus, Ohio, Kunstmuseum Basel in Basel, Switzerland, National Gallery of Victoria in Melbourne, Australia and Museum of Fine Arts Houston.

Herman previewed the upcoming exhibitions slated for 2017. The exhibition calendar begins with The Art of Seating, on display September 29 through December 31, 2017. The Art of Seating: 200 Years of American Design, organized by MOCA Jacksonville and featuring 43 works from the Thomas H. and Diane DeMell Jacobsen Ph.D. Foundation, is the first comprehensive survey of American chair design.

A Luminous Line: Forty Years of Metalpoint Drawings by Susan Schwalb will be on view January 26 through April 15, 2018.

Herman also previewed Becoming John Marin: Modernist at Work, on view at the Arts Center January 26 through April 22, 2018. Becoming John Marin: Modernist at Work, organized by the Arkansas Arts Center, surveys Marin’s career. The exhibition features several pieces from a collection of 290 donated to the Arkansas Arts Center by Norma Marin in 2014.

The 60th Annual Delta Exhibition, the Arkansas Arts Center’s yearly exhibition of juried work from the Mississippi Delta-region, will be on view May 25 through August 26, 2018. The exhibition highlights innovative contemporary art from the region.

The 2017–2018 Children’s Theatre season features six Main Stage shows: Giggle, Giggle, Quack (September 22 – October 8, 2017); Goosebumps: Phantom of the Auditorium (October 27 – November 12, 2017); Mother Goose Christmas (December 1 – December 17, 2017); The Snowy Day and Other Stories by Ezra Jack Keats (February 2 – February 18, 2018); Junie B. Jones is Not a Crook (March 9 – March 31, 2018) and Stone Soup (April 27 – May 13, 2018).

Herman announced the upcoming fundraiser Beaux Arts Ball, slated for May 5, 2018 at the Arkansas Arts Center.

Herman presented the 2015-2016 Arkansas Arts Center “Employee of the Year” award to Facility Rental and Event Coordinator Jean Heslip. Facilities Manager John Pagan went on medical leave in October, and eventually retired. In his absence, Jean assumed many of the roles of facilities manager while continuing to plan beautiful and creative events for Arts Center members and guests.

“Jean is a hard-working, behind-the-scenes person, but she’s no stranger to those she supports,” said Laine Harber, deputy director and chief financial officer. “While taking on additional responsibilities a few years ago, Jean stepped up to an entirely new level in fiscal year 2016-2017, helping out over and above her regular responsibilities. Jean is an asset to the Arts Center, and one we would be at a loss without.”

The “Winthrop Rockefeller Memorial Award” is presented each year to honor those who serve and support the arts and the Arkansas Arts Center beyond the normal call of duty, a duty so well demonstrated by the late Winthrop Rockefeller for whom the award is named. The awardees are selected by a committee of past recipients, who are – by definition – the experts in public service through the arts.

Herman presented the 2016-2017 Winthrop Rockefeller Award to George O’Connor.

After the meeting, attendees were provided solar eclipse viewing glasses and gathered outside to witness the solar phenomenon before returning to the Arts Center to enjoy a catered lunch reception.

Meeting attendees watching the solar eclipse.

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