The Arkansas Arts Center finished its eighth consecutive year operating in the black on June 30, interim executive director Laine Harber announced August 20. It was a year marked by community support and significant achievements, including the reveal of concept designs for a reimagined Arkansas Arts Center and a landmark exhibition of John Marin works nearly four years in the making.
“Over the past year, the Arkansas Arts Center staff has worked diligently to engage our communities and realize our goals.” Harber said. “We’re incredibly proud of our accomplishments over the past year.”
At the Annual Meeting, Harber announced a generous gift in support of the Arkansas Arts Center. The Windgate Charitable Foundation will endow two curatorial positions at the Arts Center: the Windgate Curator of Contemporary Craft, to be held by Brian J. Lang, and the Jackye and Curtis Finch, Jr. Curator of Drawings, to be held by Ann Prentice Wagner, Ph.D.
In February, the Arkansas Arts Center, Studio Gang Architects and SCAPE Landscape Architects presented a striking new concept design for the Arts Center. The design will strengthen the connections between the visual and performing arts in an inclusive space that welcomes a diverse community.
A successful POP! Beaux Arts Ball honored those who have played an integral role in the Arts Center’s past and continued success. The 2018 POP! Portrait of a Patron Awards recognized Jane McGehee Wilson for her service, the Fine Arts Club of Arkansas for its philanthropy, and Townsend Wolfe for his lifetime of service on behalf of the Arkansas Arts Center.
A $350,000 grant from The Henry Luce Foundation helped the Arts Center to realize Becoming John Marin: Modernist at Work, along with its accompanying catalog and narrative website. Becoming John Marin, on view January 26 through April 22, included never-before-exhibited drawings and watercolors from the Arkansas Arts Center Collection exploring the artist’s transformation from intuitive draftsman to innovative watercolorist and etcher. Organized by the Arkansas Arts Center, Becoming John Marin featured 79 works from the Arts Center’s exceptional collection of Marin drawings, donated to the Arts Center by the artist’s daughter-in-law, Norma Marin, in 2013, and conserved with support from The Henry Luce Foundation, Luce Fund in American Art. They were 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.
The Henry Luce Foundation also supported the development of a narrative website, www.becomingjohnmarin.org. The website features analysis of Marin’s favorite subjects, from New York’s Woolworth Building to Small Point, Maine, guides viewers through Marin’s life and work, and explores 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. The Arts Center also launched its first beacon program to complement the exhibition, bringing interactive technology into the galleries, allowing visitors to build deeper connections with the art.
A $50,000 Art Works grant from the National Endowment for the Arts, announced earlier this year, will support continued conservation of the Arts Center’s collection of John Marin works. The Art Works category is the NEA’s largest funding category and supports projects that focus on the creation of art that meets the highest standards of excellence, public engagement with diverse and excellent art, lifelong learning in the arts, and/or the strengthening of communities through the arts.
The Arkansas Arts Center was one of 80 institutions across the country selected to participate in the Collections Assessment for Preservation (CAP) program. CAP helps museums improve the care of their collections by providing support for a conservation assessment of the museum’s collections and buildings. The museum will work with a team of preservation professionals to identify preventive conservation priorities. The final assessment report will help the museum prioritize its collections care efforts in the coming years.
The Arkansas Arts Center also partnered with ACANSA Arts Festival to present Will Counts: The Central High School Photographs, on view August 8 through October 22, 2017, marking the 60th anniversary of the historic integration of Little Rock Central High School in 1957. The exhibition featured 38 prints from the black and white negatives local press photographer Will Counts (1931 – 2001) made of the integration of Central High in 1957, 1958 and 1959. Counts donated the prints to the Arkansas Arts Center in 1997. To provide historical context, the Arts Center also produced an interactive timeline detailing the integration process in Little Rock, beginning with the Supreme Court decision in Brown v. Board of Education. The timeline was accessible to visitors in the gallery.
Little Rock Mayor Mark Stodola recognized outgoing trustees Albert Braunfisch, Mike Maulden and Mimi San Pedro, as well as outgoing ex-officio trustees Catherine Robben for the Contemporaries, Emily Mitchell and Lisa Nichols for the Fine Arts Club, and Paul Bash for the docents. Stodola also recognized incoming trustees Stan Hastings, LaRand Thomas and Paul Parnell, reappointed trustees Merritt Dyke, Gordon Silaski, Pat Wilson and Isabel Anthony and incoming ex-officio trustees, Jessie McLarty for the Contemporaries and Susan Day for the docents.
Chief Curator Brian Lang highlighted the acquisition of 209 works of art, including 22 purchases and 187 donations of art. The acquisitions list included a diverse selection works from the Russian avant-garde artist Alexander Archipenko, contemporary Jamaican artist Ebony G. Patterson, American painter John Singer Sargent, craft artists Iguchi Daisuke, Betty Scarpino and Marjorie Schick, as well as European masters Rembrandt van Rijn and Eugene Delacroix.
Works from the Arkansas Arts Center Foundation Collection traveled a total of 10,714 miles to be loaned to museums across the country, including the Renwick Gallery of the Smithsonian American Art Museum in Washington, D.C., Houston Center for Contemporary Craft in Houston, Texas, the Berkeley Art Museum and Pacific Film Archive at the University of California in Berkeley, California, the Center for Art in Wood in Philadelphia, Penn., and the Windgate Center for Art and Design in Little Rock, Ark.
Harber also took a moment to recognize outgoing Executive Director Todd Herman, who served as director from 2011 – 2018.
Over the past year, the Arkansas Arts Center hosted 79 lectures, gallery talks, film screenings and hands-on art-making activities were held at the Arts Center. 300 volunteers donated their time to make programming possible, the Arts Center boasted 3,346 member households and welcomed 185,479 visitors from 45 states.
Statewide ArtsReach programs visited 63 communities in 40 Arkansas counties. Children’s Theatre on Tour performed 100 shows at 62 venues, and those productions were enjoyed by 36,863 people. The Artmobile traveled 3,610 miles across the state, serving 16,098 visitors. In addition, the Young Arkansas Artists exhibition at the Clinton National Airport reached more than 1,026,252 travelers.
In the Children’s Theatre, 147 performances were held for 40,710 children and families, including 80 school shows for 213 schools across the state. The Children’s Theatre also offered programs for 206 students.
In the Museum School, 273 visual art classes and workshops were offered for 2,330 adult students, as well as 56 youth classes and special programs for 529 youth students, including 114 attendees of the popular annual Junior Arts Academy, now in its 22nd year.
Harber previewed the upcoming exhibitions slated for 2018 and 2019. The exhibition calendar begins with Independent Vision: Modern and Contemporary from the Martin Muller Collection, on display September 28 through December 30, 2018. Independent Vision, organized by the Arkansas Arts Center, will feature works from the private collection of gallerist and collector Martin Muller.
Robert Baines: Living Treasure and Fabulous Follies remains on view through October 7, 2018. A leading scholar in the field of archaeometallurgy, Baines has studied and revived Bronze Age goldsmith techniques in service of international jewelry scholarship. His study of the ancient techniques also has informed his artistic practice for more than 40 years. In Living Treasure and Fabulous Follies, Baines assembles a fictitious jewelry narrative, captivating not only in the creativity and craftsmanship evident in the works, but also in the artist’s fascination with the enigma of jewelry as material evidence of authentic history.
Harber also previewed Photographing Frida: Portraits of Frida Kahlo/Fotografiando Frida: Retratos de Frida Kahlo and Andy Warhol’s Little Red Book, both on view February 1 through April 14, 2019. Photographing Frida/Fotografiando Frida, organized by the Arkansas Arts Center in collaboration with Throckmorton Fine Art, New York, New York, will be the first exhibition about Kahlo to appear at the Arkansas Arts Center.
The 61st Annual Delta Exhibition, the Arkansas Arts Center’s annual exhibition of juried work from the Mississippi Delta-region, will be on view May 31 through September 1, 2019. The exhibition highlights innovative contemporary art from the Arkansas and its border states.
The 2018–2019 Children’s Theatre season features six Main Stage shows: Curious George: The Golden Meatball (September 21 – October 7, 2018); Hansel and Gretel’s Gingerbread Games (October 26 – November 11, 2018); Jack Frost in Santa Land (November 30 – December 16, 2018); This Little Piggy Went to Market (February 1 – February 17, 2019); Charlotte’s Web (March 8 – March 31, 2019) and The Hobbit (April 26 – May 12, 2019).
Harber announced the upcoming Tabriz – the last to be held before groundbreaking for the reimagined Arkansas Arts Center – is slated for April 25 and 27, 2019 at the Arkansas Arts Center.
Ann Prentice Wagner, Ph.D.
Harber presented the Arkansas Arts Center “Employee of the Year” award to Curator of Drawings Ann Prentice Wagner, Ph.D. Since joining the Arkansas Arts Center in 2012, Wagner has organized numerous exhibitions, contributed to the collection and advocated for the Arts Center among the museum community. Wagner’s diligent scholarship on the life and work of John Marin made Becoming John Marin possible, bringing the work of this fascinating artist to life for Arts Center visitors.
“Ann’s exceptional scholarship made Becoming John Marin – the exhibition, catalog and website – possible, and her diligence and commitment to the art in our collection is unparalleled,” Lang said. “Ann is very deserving of this honor.”
Harber presented the “Winthrop Rockefeller Memorial Award” to Shep Russell. 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.