By Katie Hall Collections Manager and Head Registrar
Edgar Degas’s Trois danseuses nues from the Arkansas Arts Center Foundation Collection is currently on view in Degas at the Opera, an exploration of the French impressionist’s fondness for the Paris Opera to celebrate its 350th anniversary. Katie traveled with the drawing as a courier on its way to Paris this fall. Here, she shares insights from her international adventure.
The Arkansas Arts Center has a world-renowned collection of international art – and museums around the world are often interested in borrowing works from our collection for exhibitions exploring various artists, themes and movements. A few years ago, the Musée d’Orsay in Paris reached out to us about Degas at the Opera, which they were developing in partnership with the National Gallery of Art in Washington, D.C., to mark the 350th anniversary of the Opéra national de Paris. The curators of the exhibition were interested in borrowing Degas’ Trois danseuses nues (Three Nude Dancers) from our collection. The charcoal drawing, made by Degas in the first few years of the 20th century, shows three dancers pausing for a moment as one leans down to adjust the ribbon on her shoe.
As one of the people at the Arts Center tasked with keeping the collection safe, it’s my responsibility to ensure that the work is fit to travel and that the museum it’s traveling to will maintain safe environmental conditions during the exhibition. For some loans, that even means a member of the Arts Center’s exhibitions team will accompany the work to oversee the transportation, unpacking, and installation of the artwork. With Trois danseuses nues traveling to Paris for Degas at the Opera earlier this fall, I served as the courier.
Our journey began in Dallas, where we caught a plane to Paris along with several other artworks and couriers from American museums bound for the same exhibition.
Arriving in Paris, the work was delivered to the Musée d’Orsay, where it stayed in its crate to acclimate to the environment in the space.
The next day, I returned to the museum to help unpack and install the artwork among works from the Musée d’Orsay, the Bibliothèque nationale de France and others.
The curators of Degas at the Opera were particularly interested in the Arts Center’s drawing because of its relationship to another Degas drawing in the Musée d’Orsay’s collection. The two drawings, presented side-by-side in the exhibition, depict the same group of dancers with one figure reaching down to adjust her ballet shoe.
They’re both charcoal sketches – the artist was clearly working out a composition before adding costumes color and other details. Seeing these works together, it became clear to me that the Arts Center’s drawing is really a highlight of the exhibition.
While every loan does not require a courier, I travel a lot for my job and I’ve met a lot of museum professionals along the way. People I meet are sometimes surprised to realize the depth and breadth of our collection. I often hear some version of an incredulous “this is in Arkansas? I had no idea!” Seeing it installed at the Musée d’Orsay alongside works from some of the world’s most influential collections, I was excited to see that the Arkansas Arts Center’s collection is making an impact on an international audience.
Degas at the Opera was organized by the Musée d’Orsay and Musée de l’Orangerie, Paris and the National Gallery of Art, Washington, where it will be presented from 1 March to 5 July 2020 on the occasion of the three hundred and fiftieth anniversary of the Paris Opera.
“We are always looking for
opportunities to create strong community partnerships and deepen the community’s
engagement with the arts,” Executive Director Victoria Ramirez said. “With this
Delta Exhibition, we have an opportunity to bring the art into our
communities and to celebrate art made in and about this region.”
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. 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. With
the Arts Center’s MacArthur Park building undergoing a transformational
renovation, Chief Curator Brian Lang began searching for opportunities to bring
the beloved Arts Center exhibition into other parts of the community.
“Every year, the Delta
Exhibition creates a conversation about place through the art that is
featured,” Lang said. “This year, we have the opportunity to add to that
conversation – to engage with the Arkansas River and the communities on each
side of it.”
The call for entries for
the 62nd Annual Delta Exhibition will be open January 13 –
March 22, 2020. The exhibition 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.
A guest juror will select the works to be featured in the exhibition as well as
the award winners.
The guest juror, exhibition dates, and events for the 62nd Annual Delta Exhibition will be announced at a later date.
WPA-built façade will be the entrance to the reimagined Arkansas Arts Center
With construction underway on the Arkansas Arts Center’s MacArthur Park building, a piece of Arkansas history is once again visible from 9th Street. The 1937 façade of the Museum of Fine Arts – the precursor to the Arkansas Arts Center – was uncovered last week as construction crews cleared debris from the construction site.
When the reimagined Arkansas Arts Center opens in 2022, the façade will once again be the entrance to the Arkansas Arts Center, welcoming visitors through the north courtyard. Representing the institution’s proud 80-year legacy, the historic façade will play a prominent role in the MacArthur Park building’s new identity.
“Revealing this important piece of historic architecture is a striking symbol of what we hope to accomplish through a reimaged Arts Center,” Executive Director Victoria Ramirez said. “The Arkansas Arts Center will be the cultural beacon for the region and a source of pride that reflects who we are as a people and who we aspire to be: an Arkansas Arts Center that embraces both our history and our future.”
Beyond revealing the 1937 façade, Studio Gang and SCAPE’s design for the reimagined Arkansas Arts Center lends a new, highly visible architectural identity to the space. 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 Arts Center. 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 – SCAPE’s landscape design features inviting outdoor spaces that contribute to the AAC’s role as a cultural beacon for Arkansas.
The Museum of Fine Arts, designed by architect H. Ray Burks and built by the Works Progress Administration, was the precursor to the Arts Center. Remarks from President Franklin Delano Roosevelt were read at the 1937 dedication of the museum in MacArthur Park – or what, at the time, was known as City Park. The limestone façade, designed by Little Rock artist Benjamin D. Brantley, is inscribed with “Museum of Fine Arts.” At the top of the two central pilasters, two carved relief figures – Painting personified on the left and Sculpture on the right – identify the museum as a space of art and creativity.
The façade was built into the interior gallery walls as part of the 1982 renovation to the Arkansas Arts Center, where it was visible in the Winthrop Rockefeller Gallery until the building closed for construction earlier this year. By 2019, the Arts Center’s MacArthur Park building was is made up of eight additions to the 1937 structure. In 1957, the Little Rock City Council granted the museum authority to expand its physical footprint – and with that expansion, the Museum also expanded its mission and changed its name. Winthrop and Jeannette Edris Rockefeller joined the Fine Arts Club and Junior League of Little Rock to create an Arts Center that would serve the entire state. Rockefeller led the fundraising campaign for the new Arkansas Arts Center, emphasizing the role of residents in contributing to build an institution that world serve all of Arkansas. Businesses and individuals from all parts of the state – including children who saved nickels and dimes in jars – made donations. In 1960, the Little Rock Board of Directors adopted an ordinance officially establishing the Arkansas Arts Center, and the new building opened in 1963. The building was also renovated and/or expanded in 1971, 1981, 1982, 1989, 2000 and 2001.
The current renovation will be realized through a $128 million special fundraising campaign, Reimagining the Arkansas Arts Center: Campaign for Our Cultural Future. At the October 1 groundbreaking ceremony, capital campaign co-chairs Harriet and Warrant Stephens announced that the campaign has raised more than $122.7 million of its $128 million goal.
“We remain incredibly grateful to all of the donors to-date, the City of Little Rock, and the State of Arkansas for saying ‘yes’ to Art, and to the Arkansas Arts Center,” Campaign Co-Chair Harriet Stephens said. “The project is grand in scope and impact and will need the participation of many to reach an ambitious goal. As we anticipate the Grand Opening in 2022, we look forward to involving many more people in the campaign.”
The project will result in a comprehensive reenvisioning of the AAC by renowned architect Jeanne Gang and her practice, Studio Gang. The new AAC will include a revitalized landscape, designed by Kate Orff and SCAPE, which will expand the connections between the architecture and MacArthur Park. Both Jeanne Gang and Kate Orff are MacArthur fellows who have received prestigious MacArthur “Genius” grants. The campaign will also provide transition and opening support, and endowment funds. Scheduled for completion in early 2022, the project will strengthen the Arkansas Arts Center as the region’s leading visual and performing arts institution.
“The new Arkansas Arts Center will stand as a noted architectural treasure in the heart of Arkansas, serving even more young people and adults, and attracting visitors from throughout the city, state, region, and nation,” Campaign Co-Chair Warren Stephens said. “The Campaign is an excellent example of the transformative power of a successful public/private partnership.”
Studio Gang is an architecture and urban design practice headquartered in Chicago, with offices in New York, San Francisco and Paris. Founded and led by MacArthur Fellow Jeanne Gang, Studio Gang’s award-winning work ranges in scale and typology from the 82-story Aqua Tower to the 14-acre Nature Boardwalk at Lincoln Park Zoo, both located in Chicago. Gang has been recognized for a design process that foregrounds the relationship among people and their environments, and is the only architect named to TIME Magazine’s list of the 100 Most Influential People of 2019. Studio Gang is currently designing cultural and civic projects across the Americas, including an expansion to the American Museum of Natural History in New York, a new Center for the University of Chicago in Paris, a new United States Embassy in Brasilia, and a Global Terminal at O’Hare International Airport in Chicago. This is Studio Gang’s first project in Arkansas.
SCAPE, founded by landscape architect and MacArthur Fellow Kate Orff, 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.
During construction, the Arkansas Arts Center has moved from its current facility in MacArthur Park into a temporary location at the Riverdale Shopping Center at 2510 Cantrell Road in Little Rock. Classes, education programs, and performances will continue at the temporary location from Fall 2019 through the new Arts Center’s planned Grand Opening in 2022.
Designed by award-winning architect, Jeanne Gang and Studio Gang, and noted landscape architect, Kate Orff and SCAPE, the project is slated for completion in 2022
The Arkansas Arts Center (AAC) held a mid-morning Groundbreaking Ceremony today to commemorate the beginning of construction of its stunning, reimagined Arts Center. Upon completion in 2022, the current facility will be entirely transformed through an exciting design by renowned architect Jeanne Gang and her practice, Studio Gang. The project also includes a landscape design that will connect the AAC with the surrounding MacArthur Park, by award-winning designer Kate Orff and SCAPE. Both Jeanne Gang and Kate Orff are MacArthur Fellows who have received prestigious “Genius Grants” from the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation.
“As we gather to commemorate the beginning of construction, today marks
a major step forward toward ensuring that the Arkansas Arts Center is an
important and flourishing cultural resource now and in the future,” said Campaign Co-Chair Warren Stephens. “This
is a truly historic day in the life of our city, state, and region.”
we commit to ensuring that the Arkansas Arts Center will be a cultural beacon
for the region, showcasing art that educates, inspires, provokes, and
beautifies our lives. All people, from young to young at heart, will gather
here as a community to celebrate, learn, and cross boundaries,” said Arkansas
Arts CenterExecutive Director, Dr. Victoria Ramirez.
“The project embraces the Arkansas Arts Center’s rich history and looks forward
to a future that exceeds our expectations. I am honored to be working with all
of you to make this vision a reality.”
Jeanne Gang and Kate Orff spoke at
the Groundbreaking Ceremony, relaying key points about the project’s design and
“The design for the reimagined Arkansas Arts Center features new
and renovated spaces for gathering and community events to create dynamic
connections among the state-of-the-art galleries and exhibitions, renovated
Museum School, and upgraded Children’s Theatre,” said Jeanne Gang, Architect and Founding Principal of Studio Gang. “One
of our main goals for the project is to allow the architecture to invite
interaction, discovery, creativity, and learning.”
“The site design will provide a seamless transition between the
Arkansas Arts Center and MacArthur Park,” said Kate Orff, Founder of SCAPE.
“With native plantings, a tree canopy, walking paths, and a great lawn for
events, the landscape design will provide useable and accessible space for
visitors, and create a true ‘Arts Center in the Park’.”
The project is made possible through Reimagining the Arkansas Arts
Center: Campaign for Our Cultural Future, a $128 million fundraising
campaign, which will fund the new Arts Center for the 21st Century, and
provide support for transition, opening, and endowment. At the Groundbreaking
Ceremony, Campaign Co-Chairs Harriet and
Warren Stephens announced that the Campaign has now raised more than $122.7
million of its $128 million goal to-date.
The campaign includes a commitment of $31,245,000 from the City of Little Rock, which is being generated through a hotel-tax revenue bond. Lead donors
include Windgate Foundation, Harriet and
Warren Stephens, the State of Arkansas, and Winthrop Rockefeller Charitable Trust. The Campaign now has twenty-two “21st Century Founders” –
donors who are contributing gifts of $1 million to $35 million. Thirty-two
families and foundations are now leadership donors to the campaign, having
given between $100,000 and $1 million. There are many others who have donated
gifts, as well.
“We remain incredibly grateful to all
of the donors to-date, the City of Little Rock, and the State of Arkansas for saying
‘yes’ to Art, and to the Arkansas Arts Center,” said Campaign Co-Chair Harriet Stephens. “The project is grand in scope and impact and will need the
participation of many to reach an ambitious goal. As we anticipate the Grand
Opening in 2022, we look forward to involving many more people in the campaign.”
AAC Board of Trustees President, Merritt Dyke, and Little
Rock Mayor, Frank Scott, Jr. also spoke to commemorate the occasion. Harriet
and Warren Stephens, Dr. Victoria Ramirez, Jeanne Gang, Kate Orff, Merritt
Dyke, and Mayor Frank Scott, Jr. were then joined by AAC
Foundation Board Chair, Robert W. Tucker for the ceremonial groundbreaking.
The celebration included performances by the Parkview Arts and Science Magnet
Jazz Ensemble, the Episcopal Collegiate School Choir, and the Episcopal
Collegiate Percussion Band for the capacity crowd.
During construction, the Arkansas Arts Center has moved from its current facility in MacArthur Park into a temporary location at the Riverdale Shopping Center at 2510 Cantrell Road in Little Rock. Classes, education programs, and performances will continue at the temporary location from Fall 2019 through the new Arts Center’s planned Grand Opening in 2022.
Reimagining the Arkansas Arts Center: Campaign for Our Cultural Future Donors To Date
21ST CENTURY FOUNDERS Windgate Foundation City of Little Rock Harriet and Warren Stephens Winthrop Rockefeller Charitable Trust State of Arkansas Terri and Chuck Erwin The Brown Foundation, Inc., of Houston Mandy and Bill Dillard Ben and Walter Hussman and Hussman Foundation The Tyson Family in honor of Terri and Chuck Erwin Stella Boyle Smith Trust Chucki and Curt Bradbury Anne and Merritt Dyke in honor of Helen L. Porter and James T. Dyke Helen Porter and Jim Dyke Dede and Scott Ford and Jo Ellen and Joe Ford Robyn and John Horn Keller Family Foundation: Julie Keller and Christoph Keller III; Laura Porter Keller and Thomas Christoph Keller; Mary Olive Keller Stephens and John Calhoun Stephens Lynn and George O’Connor Barbara Tyson Anonymous (2)
LEADERSHIP DONORS The Family of H. Tyndall and Carrie R. Dickinson Jackye and Curtis Finch Jr Lisenne Rockefeller Belinda Shults Dianne and Bobby Tucker Trinity Foundation Sandra and Robert C. Connor Donna and Mack McLarty The Middleton Family Judy and Randy Wilbourn Boots and Alan Warrick Sunderland Foundation Pam and Rick Blank Virginia Stuart Cobb Laura and Mark Doramus Kelly and Brad Eichler Cindy and Greg Feltus Judy W. Fletcher in memory of John R. Fletcher Rosalyn and Harry Hastings Family Barbara Rogers Hoover Mimi M. and Joseph B. Hurst, Jr. W. W. and Anne Jones Charitable Trust Jeanne and Harold Joyner in honor of Harriet and Warren Stephens Kay and Bill Patton Cindy and Warren Simpson Roy & Christine Sturgis Charitable Trust Sherry Worthen in memory of George Worthen Anonymous in honor of Merritt Dyke Anonymous (4)
Incoming Executive Director Victoria Ramirez joins Arts Center leadership in celebrating the year’s accomplishments
The Arkansas Arts Center continued to deliver accessible and engaging programs during a year of historic transition, leaders announced at the September 23 Annual Meeting. The Arts Center’s new Executive Director Victoria Ramirez joined Board of Trustees President Merritt Dyke, Foundation President Bobby Tucker and Interim Executive Director Laine Harber in congratulating the board, foundation, staff and community on a year of remarkable accomplishments.
a year of monumental change for the 56-year-old organization, the Arkansas Arts
Center continued to offer dynamic and diverse programming in the Museum, Museum
School and Children’s Theatre. Last year, the Arts Center also launched a $128
million capital campaign, a crucial step in realizing the transformation of its
MacArthur Park home into a stunning new Arts Center for the 21st
century. The Arts Center also established initiatives to remain vibrant,
accessible and community-oriented while its MacArthur Park building is under
construction over the next two-and-a-half years, including its move to a
temporary space in the Riverdale Shopping Center and partnerships with the
Central Arkansas Library System and other community organizations.
has been an honor to serve as interim director during this exciting year at the
Arts Center,” Interim Director Laine Harber said. “I look forward to working
closely with Victoria as she establishes a vision that will carry us into the
has served as interim executive director since August 2018 while the Arts
Center searched for a new permanent director. Last month, the Arts Center
announced that Ramirez will join the Arkansas Arts Center as executive director.
congratulate and commend the board, foundation and staff on another successful
year,” Ramirez said. “The Arts Center is well-known for its high-quality
exhibitions and engaging programming – and its past successes will undoubtedly
chart the course for the future. I look forward to building on this work at the
Riverdale location and at the reimagined Arkansas Arts Center when it opens in
the meeting, Harber outlined several of the historic milestones reached over
the past year.
May, the Arts Center launched Reimagining the Arkansas Arts Center:
Campaign for Our Cultural Future, a $128 million fundraising campaign
to realize a stunning new Arts Center. At the May 15 announcement, Campaign
Co-Chairs Harriet and Warren Stephens announced that $118 million of the $128
million goal had been raised to-date.
remarkable group has come together with a clear understanding of the importance
of reimagining the Arkansas Arts Center for the 21st Century,”
Campaign Co-Chair Harriet Stephens said. “We will now reach out to the entire
community and state for support to realize this once-in-a-lifetime project.
Together, we can ensure that the Arkansas Arts Center is a thriving and
influential cultural institution for present and future generations.”
Arts Center also made significant strides toward its commitment to maintaining
its community presence while construction begins on its MacArthur Park building
with a partnership with the Central Arkansas Library System. Beginning
this fall, visitors will find objects from the Arkansas Arts Center’s
1,500-work contemporary craft collection on view at 15 CALS locations.
Carefully selected for the community relevance, each installation includes
works that reference the environment, history and mission of the library branch
where they’re located, illustrating the incredible diversity of the Arts
Center’s collection of contemporary craft objects.
Visitors will also find some of
their favorite Arts Center youth and adult programs at neighborhood libraries. Art
Start, a collaboration between the Arkansas Arts Center and CALS, will be
hosted monthly at the Hillary Rodham Clinton Children’s Library & Learning
Center. The program, designed for toddlers and pre-school-aged children,
includes stories about art and artists, gallery activities and art-making
projects. Super Sunday Free Family Funday, a monthly, free art-making program
is also being held at the Children’s Library. Art Together, a partnership with
Alzheimer’s Arkansas to provide an art experience for adults with dementia-spectrum
disorders and their care partners, will be offered at the Cox Creative
In February, the Arts Center announced
a move to a temporary location at 2510 Cantrell Road to continue programming
during construction. 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 Riverdale location, which includes
studio space for Museum School classes, design and rehearsal space for
the Children’s Theatre, office space, and flexible education and exhibition
space, is now open.
In April, the Arts Center launched Children’s Theatre
Restaged. Through this expanded Children’s Theatre on Tour program,
literary-based theatre productions will continue to travel to schools,
community centers and libraries across Arkansas. The 2019–2020 Children’s
Theatre on Tour season will include Wynken,
Blynken and Nod: A Play for the Very Young (September 24 – October 20), A Christmas Carol (November 12 –
December 20), The Arkansas Story Porch (January
23 – March 6), and The Wind in the
Willows (April 7 – May 15).
In June, the Arts Center premiered
DELTA 60, a documentary exploration of the artists and artwork featured in the Annual
Delta Exhibition. The original
documentary explores the innovative work featured in the 60th Annual Delta
Exhibition through the eyes of 10 Arkansas artists. Following these
artists as they create work that addresses place, identity, representation and
history, DELTA 60 proves the power of art to challenge its viewers – and its
makers. The documentary will be featured in the upcoming Fayetteville Film
Harber enumerated the year’s
successful exhibitions, highlighting visitors’ reflections on the art left in
gallery comment books and on social media. The Arts Center’s calendar of
featured exhibitions represented a diverse range of artistic expression. Robert
Baines: Living Treasure and Fabulous Follies explored the artists’ use of
ancient metalworking techniques to challenge contemporary culture. Independent
Vision: Modern and Contemporary Art from the Martin Muller Collection
featured nearly 90 works San Francisco-based gallerist Martin Muller as a
tribute to the Arts Center and the city of Little Rock. Photographing Frida:
Portraits of Frida Kahlo/Fotografiando Frida: Retratos de Frida Kahlo offered
a rare opportunity for visitors to see Frida Kahlo as she was captured by some
of the 20th century’s most important photographers. POP! Out of
the Vault: Andy Warhol’s Little Red Book explored a treasure trove of Pop
Art found in the Arkansas Arts Center Foundation Collection.
Harber also highlighted several programming successes. Statewide ArtsReach programs visited 50 communities in 44 Arkansas counties, reaching 420,999 people. He noted a particularly sharp increase in the number of students enrolled in Museum School Classes. He also noted the Arts Center’s acquisition of 150 new memberships to the community of nearly 3,500 member households.
Foundation President Bobby Tucker
briefly highlighted the
acquisition of 89 works of art into the Arkansas Arts Center Foundation
Collection, including nine purchases and 80 donations.
Works from the Arkansas Arts Center Foundation Collection traveled
a total of 6,362 miles to be loaned to museums across the country, including
the Center for Art in Wood in Philadelphia, the San Antonio Museum of Art in
San Antonio, the Zimmerli Museum of Art at Rutgers University in New Brunswick,
N.J., the Metal Museum in Memphis, Tenn., Garvey|Simon in New York, the Clinton
Presidential Center in Little Rock, Ark., the Central Arkansas Library System
Roberts Library in Little Rock, Ark., the Windgate Center for Art and Design in
Little Rock, Ark., the Historic Arkansas Museum in Little Rock, Ark., the
Bradbury Art Museum at Arkansas State University in Jonesboro, Ark., and the
Arts & Sciences Center for Southeast Arkansas in Pine Bluff, Ark.
Little Rock Mayor Frank Scott, Jr. recognized outgoing trustees
Sara Hendricks Batcheller and Brenda Mize, as well as outgoing ex-officio
trustees Mark Stodola for the City of Little Rock, Kelly Phillips for the
Junior League of North Little Rock, Neil Gillespie for the Friends of
Contemporary Craft, Jessie McClarty for the Contemporaries, and Susan Day for
the docents. Board President Merritt Dyke recognized incoming trustees Dr. Laurence
Alexander, Dr. Loren Bartole and Amanda Wilson Denton, reappointed trustees Kaki
Hockersmith, Diane Jonsson, Patrick O’Sullivan, Terri Snowden, and Van Tilbury,
incoming ex-officio trustees Frank Scott, Jr. for the City of Little Rock,
Shantea Nelson for the Junior League of Little Rock, Jim Gorman for the
Docents, and Heather Wardle for the Contemporaries, and reappointed ex-officio
trustees Joe Smith for the City of North Little Rock and Kenya Eddings for the
Junior League of Little Rock. Dyke also recognized former trustees who passed
away in the past year.
Harber presented the “Winthrop Rockefeller Memorial Award” to Board of Trustees President Merritt Dyke. The award, presented each year, honors those who serve and support the arts and the Arkansas Arts Center above and beyond the normal call of duty, as 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.
Dr. Ramirez’s leadership and vision will be key to fulfilling the promise of the reimagined Arkansas Arts Center, slated for completion in 2022
The Arkansas Arts Center (AAC) is pleased to announce the appointment of Dr. Victoria Ramirez as its new Executive Director. A visionary leader in the museum field, with more than 20 years of executive-level museum administration experience, Dr. Ramirez has led renovation projects, developed exhibitions and education programs, and launched programmatic and 21st century digital initiatives to increase museum attendance and participation. She has also played an integral role in many fundraising campaigns, securing support from significant national foundations and major corporations.
Dr. Ramirez will come directly to the Arkansas Arts Center from
her position as Director of the El Paso Museum of Art (EPMA), a municipal
museum in El Paso, Texas that serves community members of all ages. While at
EPMA, she oversaw all aspects of museum administration, operations and
programming, including a collection of more than 7,000 works, 12 annual
exhibitions, and a robust art school. She led gallery renovation activities; oversaw
strategic planning; expanded the art school; increased attendance, membership
and student engagement; and worked closely with the EPMA Foundation Board on planning
and fundraising initiatives. Under Dr. Ramirez’s direction, the EPMA was
awarded the prestigious Medal of Honor by the Institution for Museum and
Library Services in recognition of dynamic programming and services.
Dr. Ramirez served as the Deputy Director of the Bullock Texas State History
Museum in Austin Texas, where she oversaw a staff of 85 members and was
responsible for all museum facilities, including permanent galleries, rotating
exhibition spaces, two theatres, classrooms, café, store, and grounds. She was
also the W.T. and Louise J. Moran Education Director at the Museum of Fine
Arts, Houston, Texas, where she oversaw long-range planning and directed
activities of the education department.
Dr. Ramirez holds an Ed.D. in Curriculum and Instruction from the
University of Houston, in Houston, Texas; a M.A. in Museum Education and Art
History from George Washington University in Washington, D.C.; and a B.A. in
Art History from the University of Maryland in College Park, Maryland. She is
also a Member of the Task Force on Diversity, Equity, Accessibility and
Inclusion in Museum Excellence for the American Alliance of Museums.
“We are truly honored to welcome Dr. Ramirez to the Arkansas Arts
Center,” said Merritt Dyke, President of the Arts Center Board of Trustees. “Her
deep experience in exhibitions, education, planning, and fundraising comes at
the perfect time as we work to strengthen the Arkansas Arts Center as the
regions’ premier center for the visual and performing arts. I’d like to offer
my sincerest thanks to Laine Harber, our Chief Financial Officer, who has
expertly served as the Interim Director of the Arts Center since August 2018.”
“The Arkansas Arts Center is a jewel for Little Rock and the region, and the project to re-envision the Arts Center will undoubtedly usher in the most expansive era in the institution’s history,” said Dr. Victoria Ramirez. “It is an honor and a privilege to be the new Executive Director during this transformative time. I am looking forward to working with the Arts Center’s Board, Foundation, staff, and Capital Campaign Co-Chairs Harriet and Warren Stephens to realize the vision for the new Art Center and launch its next, exciting chapter.”
“As we continue on our journey toward the Grand Opening of the reimagined
Arkansas Arts Center in 2022, Dr. Ramirez is an ideal choice for Executive
Director. The renovation project is grand in scope and impact, and her experience
and vision will be central to fulfilling the promise of the new Arkansas Arts
Center,” said Campaign Co-Chair Warren
Stephens. “With the hiring of Dr. Ramirez, the Arts Center Board is reaffirming
its commitment to the inspirational power and educational possibilities that
art brings to the young people and adults in our city, state and region.”
The Arkansas Arts Center is currently conducting a $128 million
special fundraising campaign, Reimagining the Arkansas Arts Center:
Campaign for Our Cultural Future, that will realize a stunning new Arts
Center for the 21st Century. The project will result in a complete
reenvisioning of the AAC by renowned architect Jeanne Gang and her
practice, Studio Gang. The new AAC will include a landscape design, by Kate
Orff and SCAPE, which will expand the connection between the AAC
facility and MacArthur Park. Both Jeanne Gang and Kate Orff are award-winning
architects and MacArthur fellows who have received prestigious MacArthur
“Genius” grants. The Campaign will also provide transition and opening support,
and endowment funds.
During construction, the Arkansas Arts Center has moved from its current facility in MacArthur Park into a temporary location at the Riverdale Shopping Center at 2510 Cantrell Road in Little Rock. Classes, education programs and performances will continue at the temporary location from Fall 2019 through the new Arts Center’s planned Grand Opening in early 2022.
Working takes many forms, and it is how we spend so much of our waking hours. But what does it mean to work? I painted a self-portrait on one of my husband’s discarded “work shirts” to explore this question. For work, he wears one of these “work shirts” with a suit and tie and goes to an office. Am I “working” if I’m caring for a child at home and painting while naps, hopefully, happen? Am I “working” if I’m making art but not making a regular paycheck? Of course I am! But does society really think so? How does it affect others’ view and my own self-worth when sometimes it seems as though caring for kids and making art are not viewed as “work”?
The medium and surface used for this piece involves some control and some element of chance. I like to experiment with how watercolor paint spreads and/or the colors bleed together differently when using various types of fabrics as the surface. I enjoy the challenge of figuring out how to make the paint work – controlling it as much as the medium and surface will allow, but while also embracing the unpredictability of it. This is an appropriate metaphor to my life right now – raising small children while trying to maintain a career and grow as an artist. I’m learning to let go but finding ways to control what I can.
Art class was my favorite. I won a summer scholarship to the Art Institute of Chicago, earning my first solo exhibition. Wandering the halls of the Art Institute at a young age affected me deeply. I wanted to become an Impressionist. One of my idols is Carl Krafft, an early 20th century Expressionist painter from Chicago. He traveled to the Ozarks to paint and started the Ozark Painters Society. When he passed in 1936, the Art Institute had an exhibition of his work. I can see Krafft’s influence in my paintings. I want my art to tell a story, to be viewer friendly, to inspire someone to pick up a brush or pen.