Arkansas Arts Center creates connections in time of social distancing

Author: Arkansas Arts CenterFiled under: Building, Children's Theatre, Community, Museum, Museum School, News

Digital engagement provides community arts experiences

While the Arkansas Arts Center’s in-person programs are postponed, the center is offering creative and engaging arts experiences where many Central Arkansas residents are now spending the majority of their time – online.

Last week, the Arkansas Arts Center launched Arkansas Arts Center Amplified, a new Facebook group featuring artist demonstrations, highlights of artworks from the Arkansas Arts Center Foundation Collection, Children’s Theatre performances and episodes of “Our Work Continues,” an original web series developed by the center.

Museum School instructors have filmed videos from their homes offering step-by-step art projects, prompts and artist demonstrations, and hashtags are being used by museums across the country and the world offer opportunities to share art. #MuseumMomentsofZen focuses on calming artworks and #MuseumfromHome offers an opportunity to share favorite Arkansas Arts Center Collection works.

For many parents navigating working from home with young children, the center offers online performances and art activities utilizing commonly found items.

The Children’s Theatre, unable to continue its touring shows during this time, hosted a Facebook Watch Party of Wynken, Blynken, and Nod: A Play for the Very Young on Saturday. The Watch Party was followed by a live-stream Q&A with Interim Artistic Director Katie Campbell and an at-home art activity led by Museum School Associate Director Miranda Young. Both videos are available for viewing in the new Facebook group.

The Arts Center has also donated gloves, masks and respirators from exhibition and Museum School supplies to local hospitals to aid and protect our local healthcare professionals, including providing 800 particulate masks and 900 gloves to the University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences. Additionally, Museum School and Children’s Theatre staff have been utilizing fabric supplies and sewing masks at home to provide to the Central Arkansas Veterans Healthcare System.

Arkansas Arts Center Amplified will continue to offer engaging arts experiences online while the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and local public health authorities recommend social distancing. Following guidance from the City of Little Rock and public health officials, the Arkansas Arts Center’s Riverdale location is closed until further notice. The center will continue to provide updates about future programming in the coming weeks. 

During this time, construction on the reimagined Arkansas Arts Center in MacArthur Park continues with additional health and safety precautions in place to ensure the safety of those working on site. Increased precautions include additional hand-washing stations and OSHA trainings, social distancing and increased shifts, with fewer workers on site at any given time. The renovated Arkansas Arts Center is scheduled to reopen in Spring of 2022.

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Arkansas Arts Center Riverdale Location to close

Author: Arkansas Arts CenterFiled under: Community, Education, General, News, Programs

Dear Patron,

The Arkansas Arts Center continues to monitor the constantly shifting situation regarding the spread of COVID-19. Following guidance from the City of Little Rock and public health officials, the Arkansas Arts Center’s Riverdale location will be closed to the public starting close of business on Friday, March 13 and remain closed until further notice.

Your health and the health of our staff is our highest priority at this time. We have been taking proactive precautionary measures for the past several weeks, including implementing rigorous cleaning routines and staying up to date on Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and Arkansas Department of Health recommendations. While we don’t currently have any confirmed cases of COVID-19 connected to the AAC, we believe this time calls for us to postpone or minimize gatherings while maintaining the cleanest environment possible. We want to take all prudent steps to ensure a safe and healthy environment for our community.

All programming through March 30 is canceled or postponed. We are continuing to closely monitor the situation, and will make updates about future programming in the coming weeks.

Below is a list of programs that are canceled or postponed:

Friday, March 13 – Monday, March 16: Museum School classes and workshops

Monday, March 16: Art Together at the Central Arkansas Library System’s Cox Building

Monday, March 16: Contemporaries “Night at the Museum School”

Wednesday, March 18: ArtStart! at CALS Hillary Rodham Clinton Children’s Library and Learning Center

Friday, March 20 – Sunday, March 22: Pay What You Can performances of The Arkansas Story Porch and Wynken, Blynken, and Nod: A Play for the Very Young at the Arkansas Arts Center’s Riverdale Location

Monday, March 23 – Friday, March 27: Spring Break Camps, including Color Me Crazy and Cosplay Quest, at the Arkansas Arts Center’s Riverdale Location

Tuesday, April 7: Why Have You Not Heard of These Artists? An Overlooked Generation of Abstract Painters: A Conversation with Melissa Messina at CALS Ron Robinson Theatre

Please call (501) 372-4000 or email info@arkansasartscenter.org with any further questions or concerns.

Thank you for your continued support of the Arkansas Arts Center, and we hope to see you soon.

Take care,

Victoria Ramirez
Executive Director
Arkansas Arts Center

Arkansas Arts Center Collection on View

Author: Arkansas Arts CenterFiled under: Collection, Community, Exhibitions, Museum

From Paris, France to Washington D.C. to Cleveland, Ohio, works from the Arkansas Arts Center Foundation Collection have traveled near and far to be part of exhibitions across the country – and the world. Be sure to check out Contemporary British Studio Ceramics, currently on view at the University of Arkansas at Little Rock and The Mighty Mississippi and Defender, both on view at the Clinton Presidential Center this spring. And if you happen to find yourself in Cleveland or Washington, D.C., be sure to stop in and see Diego Rivera’s Dos Mujeres or Edgar Degas’ Trois danseuses nues. 

Windgate Center of Art + Design, University of Arkansas at Little Rock
January 16 – March 7, 2020

Contemporary British Studio Ceramics from the Arkansas Arts Center Foundation Collection

What is it? 
A broad look at the diversity of 20th century British Studio Ceramics from the Arkansas Arts Center Foundation Collection. The exhibition features both functional wares – bowls and teapots – alongside purely sculptural works – like Gordon Baldwin’s Untitled. 

Why here?
This exhibition is a great learning opportunity for students. The Windgate Center of Art + Design on the University of Arkansas at Little Rock is a “teaching museum” – a resource for art students and the community alike. The exhibition illustrates a rich variety of techniques and forms, ranging from slab-building, hand-building and wheel throwing, to neriage and nerikomi –traditional Japanese methods using “marbleized” clay – to the 17th- and 18th-century “agatewares” of England. 

Why now?
Brad Cushman, gallery director at the Windgate Center, jumped at the opportunity to borrow this collection of ceramic works while the Arts Center’s building is under construction. The selection currently on view is only half of the works on loan to the Windgate Center – a second exhibition of studio ceramics from the AAC collection will be on view in the fall.

Edgar Hilaire Germain Degas, French (Paris, France, 1834 – 1917, Paris, France), Trois danseuses nues (Three Nude Dancers), circa 1903, charcoal on paper, 30 3/4 x 25 9/16 inches, Arkansas Arts Center Foundation Collection: Purchase, Fred W. Allsopp Memorial Acquisition Fund. 1983.010.002

Degas at the Opera

National Gallery of Art, Washington, D.C. 
March 1 – July 5, 2020

What is it?
Degas at the Opera presents an exploration of the famed French Impressionist’s love for the opera as it was depicted throughout his career. Degas’ Trois danseuses nues (Three Nude Dancers), a charcoal drawing from the Arkansas Arts Center Foundation Collection is featured in the exhibition. Made by Degas in the first few years of the 20th century, the drawing shows three dancers pausing for a moment as one leans down to adjust the ribbon on her shoe. 

Why here? 
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 – and together, they show how the artist was working out a composition before adding costumes, color and other details. 

Why now?
Degas at the Opera was organized by the Musée d’Orsay in Paris to celebrate the 350th anniversary of the Paris Opera. The exhibition was on view in Paris from last fall and continues its tour at the National Gallery of Art in Washington, D.C. this spring. 

Height x Width x Depth: Sculpture from the Arkansas Arts Center Foundation Collection

Bradbury Art Museum, Arkansas State University, Jonesboro, Arkansas

Courtesy of Hillary Brooks, Bradbury Art Museum

What is it?
Height x Width x Depth features 15 large-scale sculptural works from the Arkansas Arts Center Foundation Collection. From Louise Nevelson’s monochromatic wood construction, Tide Garden IV, to Auguste Rodin’s bronze Bust of Young Balzac to ceramicist Jun Kaneko’s hand-built Untitled (Oval), the exhibition represents the breadth of sculptural works found in the Arts Center’s collection. The exhibition’s title, Height x Width x Depth, references not only the physicality of the objects on view but also the delightful depth of the Arts Center’s collection. 

Why here?
Curator Les Christensen sought an opportunity to create a cohesive exhibition that would also represent as many basic materials and methods in three-dimensional art as possible for the on-campus museum. And Height x Width x Depth does just that – combining additive, subtractive and constructive processes and figurative and abstract forms to create a broad look at modern and contemporary sculpture.

Why now?
The logistics of loaning and installing large-scale sculptural works can be challenging – making short-term loans less practical. With an extended loan period (Height x Width x Depth will be on view at the Bradbury Art Museum for two years), this was the perfect opportunity for these works to spend some time in Jonesboro. 

The Mighty Mississippi: HeART and Soul of the Southern Delta

Carroll Cloar, American, (Earle, Arkansas, 1913 – 1993, Memphis, Tennessee), The Big Cypress, 1964, casein tempera on board, 16 x 11 inches, Arkansas Arts Center Foundation Collection: Gift of Mr. and Mrs. John Pope Matthews. 1993.061.003

Clinton Presidential Center, Little Rock, Arkansas
December 14, 2019 – March 22, 2020 

What is it?
The Mighty Mississippi: HeART and Soul of the Southern Delta presents elements of culture from the last 120 years with roots in Arkansas, Mississippi and Louisiana. The exhibition features a selection of visual art that brings visitors face-to-face with the privilege and poverty that define life in the Southern Delta, including 12 paintings, drawings, photographs and craft objects from the Arkansas Arts Center Foundation Collection. 

Why here?
The Mighty Mississippi is part of the Clinton Presidential Center’s Fusion: Arts and Humanities Arkansas series which explores heritage, culture and human achievement by weaving the arts and humanities together. HeART and Soul of the Southern Delta  is the fourth installment in the series. 

Why now?
The Arkansas Arts Center’s collection includes a variety of works that fit the Fusion theme, The HeART and Soul of the Southern Delta. Works by Carroll Cloar, William E. Davis and Robbie McClaran – among others – explore the history, landscape and people of the Southern Delta and add depth to the Clinton Center’s exploration of history, music and culture in the region. 

Defender

Clinton Presidential Center, Little Rock, Arkansas

David L. Deming, American (Cleveland, Ohio, 1943 – ), Defender, 1986, painted steel, 96 x 48 x 48 inches, Arkansas Arts Center Foundation Collection: Gift of Frank Ribelin. 1989.045

What is it?
Defender, David Deming’s imposing abstract steel sculpture, is on view in the Clinton Presidential Center’s second-floor galleries. Stationed in front of a bank of windows, the sculpture’s heavy limbs appear to struggle to break free from their base and walk across the gallery. 

Why here?
Defender was briefly installed on the White House grounds during the Clinton presidency. In 1995, former Arts Center director Townsend Wolfe curated an exhibition of 20th-century American sculpture to grace the White House grounds. True to its title, Defender stood sentinel near the garden entrance, serving as a sort of protector to the first family and guests.

Why now?
The Arts Center is always looking for ways to build relationships and partnerships with our arts and cultural neighbors in Little Rock and beyond. Installing Defender at the Clinton Center presented an opportunity to show a work from the Arkansas Arts Center Foundation Collection that has a distinct connection to the Clinton Center’s mission.

Dos Mujeres

Cleveland Museum of Art, Cleveland, Ohio

Diego Rivera, Mexican (Guanajuato, Mexico, 1886 – 1957, Mexico City, Mexico), Dos Mujeres (Two Women), 1914, oil on canvas, 77 3/4 x 63 1/2 inches, Arkansas Arts Center Foundation Collection: Gift of Abby Rockefeller Mauzé. 1955.010

What is it?
Diego Rivera’s 1914 cubist masterpiece, Dos Mujeres, is on view at the Cleveland Museum of Art in Cleveland, Ohio. The painting, which came to the Arts Center in 1955, was painted while Rivera was working in Paris and exploring Cubism. It depicts two women in Rivera’s apartment with the Montparnasse rooftops clearly visible through the windows. 

Why here?
The Cleveland Museum of Art has extensive holdings of painting by the Cubists – Pablo Picasso, Georges Braque and Juan Gris, among others. Dos Mujeres was informed by the work of these masters of the movement – and its visit to Cleveland will allow it to spend some time in conversation with these other great works. 

Why now?
The Arts Center’s renovation schedule provided the perfect opportunity for the Cleveland Museum of Art to borrow this exceptional work. In return, the Arts Center will host reciprocal loans from Cleveland’s collection after the new MacArthur Park building opens in 2022. 

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Contemporary craft objects on view at 15 CALS locations

Author: Arkansas Arts CenterFiled under: Collection, Community, Museum, Traveling Exhibitions

On view at Main Library: Viola Frey, American (Lodi, California, 1933 – 2004, Oakland, California), Western Civilization: Processional, 2002, slip-cast and hand-built glazed ceramic, 39 x 75 x 22 inches, Arkansas Arts Center Foundation Collection: Purchase, Tabriz Fund. 2006.021.a–h

Works from the Arkansas Arts Center’s exceptional collection of contemporary craft objects are on view at 15 Central Arkansas Library System Locations. Carefully selected for their 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 craft collection.

This partnership between between the Arkansas Arts Center and the Central Arkansas Library System is designed to build long-term creative connections between the two Central Arkansas cultural organizations.

“Between one and three percent of a museum’s collection is on view at any given time,” said Brian J. Lang, Chief Curator and Windgate Foundation Curator of Contemporary Craft. “This partnership with CALS allows us to display nearly 10 percent of our 1,500-object craft collection.”

What is Contemporary Craft?
Have you ever wondered what we mean when we talk about contemporary craft? The word “craft” historically refers to objects made from traditional materials – ceramic, glass, fiber, metal, and wood – including both functional wares and sculptural objects. Whatever their use, all of these objects invite us to consider texture, form, function as well as the role of the maker and the processes used to create the object. The Arts Center’s contemporary craft collection, in particular, focuses on works that represent exemplary craftsmanship or a unique approach to materials.

At Main Library in downtown Little Rock, visitors will find large-scale ceramic sculptures installed throughout the building, principally in elevator lobby areas and on the main floor.

On view at Roberts Library: Wendy Maruyama, American (La Junta, Colorado, 1952 – ), Rohwer (The Tag Project), 2011, tea- and coffee-stained cut paper, ink, string, thread, and metal, 144 x 24 inches, Arkansas Arts Center Foundation Collection: Gift of the artist. 2017.001.001

At Bobby L. Roberts Library of Arkansas History & Art, two sculptures from Wendy Maruyama’s The Tag Project honor Japanese Americans sent to Arkansas internment camps during World War II. The works, titled Rohwer (The Tag Project) and Jerome (The Tag Project), are part of a series of works representing each of the ten American internment camps. The sculptures are made of tea- and coffee-stained reproduction tags, each bearing the name and unique number of people interned at Rohwer and Jerome in Arkansas.

A selection of whimsical toys from past Toys Designed by Artists exhibitions is on view at Hillary Rodham Clinton Children’s Library and Learning Center. At the base of the grand stair, visitors will also find Judy Onofrio’s Just Pretending. Fondly known as “The Mermaid,” Onofrio’s found-object assemblage sculpture is a favorite of Arts Center visitors.

On view at Hillary Rodham Clinton Children’s Library and Learning Center: Judy Onofrio, American (New London, Connecticut, 1939 – ), Just Pretending, 1995, mixed media, assembled found objects, 86 x 50 x 32 inches, Arkansas Arts Center Foundation Collection: Purchased with a gift from the Roy and Christine Sturgis Charitable and Educational Trust, Barry B. Findley and Katie Speer, Trustees. 1996.024

Named after the noted women’s rights and integration advocate, Adolphine Fletcher Terry Library features a selection of ceramics made by significant women artists, including Anne Hirondelle, Betty Woodman, Karen Karnes, Laurie Spencer, and Rosemary Fisher.

At Amy Sanders Library in Sherwood, a selection of basketry and fiber works made from repurposed or recycled materials will complement the library’s active STEM education program.

To complement Roosevelt Thompson Library’s robust menu of culinary-themed events (including programs focused on tea), “Teapots at Thompson” features nearly 25 craft teapots in a variety of media.

Surrounded by forest, “A Woodland DEE-Light” at Dee Brown Library features an installation of works made from wood, containing references to wood, as well as ceramics made in wood-fired kilns. Margaret Keelan’s Young Girl with Moths, a ceramic work made to look as if it is carved from wood will be on view at Dee Brown.

At Max Milam Library, located in Perryville’s rich agricultural community, an installation of works in metal is inspired by the weathered metal machinery dotting the rural landscape.

Inspired by the building’s sleek contemporary concrete-and-glass design, the installation at Sid McMath Library features a selection of notable works in glass spanning a century of American studio glass production. Works on view include George Thiewes’ Oval Form, and several examples by Louis Comfort Tiffany.

At the Esther DeWitt Nixon Library, which serves Jacksonville and the Little Rock Air Force Base, visitors will find artwork inspired by the military experience and aviation. Terry Lee Dill’s Homage to J. Smith – World War I Tank depicts an abstracted tank in cast iron and bronze and Larry Page’s Captain Sky Teapot shows a pilot at the helm of an airplane.

On view at Fletcher Library: Jack Earl, American (Uniopolis, Ohio, 1934 – ), D.O.G., 1980, glazed & china painted clay, 16 3/4 x 12 1/2 x 13 3/4 inches, Arkansas Arts Center Foundation Collection: Purchase, Stephens Inc. City Trust Grant. 1986.002

Named for Pulitzer-Prize winning author, John Gould Fletcher Library will host a selection of works that celebrate and illustrate the power of language and the written word. The installation includes Jack Earl’s whimsical ceramic dog wearing glasses that spell D-0-G.

Maumelle Library, located adjacent to Lake Valencia, features an installation titled “Gone Fishin’,” which includes several works with a boating and fishing theme. Among them are Katie Hudnall’s Monster Fishing Kit in wood, metal and glass, and Bill Griffith’s stoneware Boat Form.

At Wrightsville’s Millie Brooks Library, an installation of works made from pine and other natural materials echoes the tall stands of pine trees that surround the building. The installation features a basket made from white oak, coralberry, and waxed linen thread by Arkansas Living Treasure Leon Niehues; a coiled pine needle basket by Neil Prince; and a wall sculpture made from coconut fibers by Romanian artist Ritzi Jacobi.

The Sue Cowan Williams Library, located near Dunbar Garden, will feature garden-themed works. The ceramics on view include floral imagery, fruits, vegetables, birds, and bees, all celebrating the natural abundance of the Earth. Farraday Newsome’s ceramic vases depict garden themes, and Jesse Small’s Flower Ghosts each explore a different floral pattern.

Fitting beautifully into Oley E. Rooker Library’s soaring, light-filled reading room is a monumental ceramic sculpture, Coupling by American artist Patti Warashina.

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Virginia arts center director named guest juror for Arkansas Arts Center Delta Exhibition

Author: Arkansas Arts CenterFiled under: Delta 62, Delta Exhibition, Exhibitions, Museum

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Call for Entries opens January 13, new location added to venues

The 61st Annual Delta Exhibition in 2019.

Stefanie Fedor, Executive Director of the Visual Arts Center of Richmond, will serve as juror for the Arkansas Arts Center’s 62nd Annual Delta Exhibition, on view June 19 – August 23, 2020 at four locations in Little Rock and North Little Rock.

As one of the longest-running and most prestigious juried art exhibitions in the region, the Annual Delta Exhibition represents the Arts Center’s commitment to artists living and working in our community today – and to continuing to grow artistic talent in the region. Expanding the Delta Exhibition into the community is part of the Arts Center’s mission to remain vibrant, accessible and community-oriented while the MacArthur Park building is under construction.

The call for entries for the 62nd Annual Delta Exhibition opens January 13. The deadline to enter is March 22, 2020. The call for entries is open to all artists who live in or were born in Arkansas and its border states: Arkansas, Louisiana, Mississippi, Missouri, Oklahoma, Tennessee or Texas.

“The legacy of the Delta Exhibition is an integral part of the Arkansas Arts Center’s past,” Executive Director Victoria Ramirez said. “As the Arts Center looks toward its future, we’re proud to work with partners across our community to continue to showcase art from the region that will educate and inspire.”

The exhibition will be displayed across four locations in downtown Little Rock and North Little Rock. The Argenta Branch of North Little Rock’s Laman Public Library joins the roster of previously announced host venues in North Little Rock. The 62nd Annual Delta Exhibition will open with a lecture by Fedor on June 18 at the Central Arkansas Library System’s Ron Robinson Theater.

Stefanie Fedor, Executive Director, Visual Arts Center of Richmond

“As an expert in contemporary art from outside our region, Ms. Fedor brings a keen and experienced eye to the Delta Exhibition,” Chief Curator Brian J. Lang said. “Undoubtedly, the works she selects for the exhibition will help us see our communities – and our region – in a new light.”

With more than 25 years of experience in visual arts programming, Fedor has helped the Visual Arts Center achieve its mission to celebrate and support the creative life of all people through art-making, exhibitions and community programs. Before joining VisArts, she served as the executive director of the Arlington Arts Center where she directed an artist residency, exhibitions and arts education program supporting emerging artists. During her tenure, Arlington Arts Center expanded its classroom and student capacity, produce an ongoing series of public art projects, and launched a curatorial incubator for emerging curators.

Fedor previously served as assistant director of the American University Museum at the Katzen Arts Center where she presented over 80 exhibitions of contemporary art featuring the work of both emerging and internationally renowned artists. While at AU, Fedor partnered with national and international arts and culture organizations to create a wide range of free public programs focused on contemporary arts and ideas. She has additionally managed and directed exhibitions programs at the Maryland Institute College of Art and New York University. Fedor served on the Board of Directors for ArtTable as the VP of Membership, and has curated and juried multiple exhibitions in Washington D.C., Baltimore and New York. Fedor earned a Bachelor’s degree in studio art from the School of the Art Institute of Chicago and a Master’s in visual arts administration from New York University.

Showcasing artists born in or living 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.

“The Argenta Arts District is thrilled to have been chosen as a partner in the Arkansas Arts Center’s signature event, their Delta Exhibition for 2020,” arts promoter John Gaudin said. “As one of three locations in Argenta, the Laman Library’s Argenta Branch Gallery is a state-of-the-art exhibition space that was designed for just such an occasion.” 

Artworks from the exhibition will also appear at the Historic Arkansas Museum in Little Rock and the Thea Foundation and ACANSA Gallery in the Argenta Arts District in downtown North Little Rock.

 “Historic Arkansas Museum is delighted to serve as a co-host for the Arkansas Arts Center’s 62nd Annual Delta Exhibition,” said Swannee Bennett, Historic Arkansas Museum Director and Chief Curator. “This is a marvelous example of the Arkansas arts community working together to bring together important works by many of the most talented artists working today.”

“Enriching our community with thought-provoking, contemporary art is a top priority for Thea Foundation, and we’re deeply honored to expand our 2020 exhibition offerings by serving as co-host of what we know will be an impactful showcase of Southern talent,” Thea Foundation Executive Director Nick Leopoulos said.

The Call for Entries Opens Monday, January 13. Learn more here.

To be eligible for entry, work must be completed during the last two years and must not have been exhibited previously at the Arkansas Arts Center, Historic Arkansas Museum, ACANSA Gallery, Thea Foundation or Argenta Branch Library. Fedor will select the works to be featured in the exhibition as well as a Grand Award winner and two Delta Award winners. The Contemporaries, an auxiliary membership group of the Arkansas Arts Center, will also select a Contemporaries Award winner.

The 62nd Annual Delta Exhibition is organized by the Arkansas Arts Center in collaboration with Historic Arkansas Museum, Thea Foundation, ACANSA Gallery and the Art Gallery, Argenta Branch of the William F. Laman Library. The exhibition is sponsored by Mrs. Lisenne Rockefeller; Terri and Chuck Erwin; Judy Fletcher, In Memory of John R. Fletcher; Friday, Eldredge & Clark, LLP; JC Thompson Trust; AAC Contemporaries; Bank OZK; Phyllis and Michael Barrier; East Harding Construction; Marion W. Fulk; 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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Reimagined Arkansas Arts Center wins Best of Design Award

Author: Arkansas Arts CenterFiled under: Building, Children's Theatre, Community, Museum, Museum School, News

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Award proves transformational power of the new cultural hub for Arkansas

View From The North: Daytime view from downtown Little Rock of the Arkansas Arts Center’s new north entrance. The Cultural Living Room signals the new entrance from Crescent Drive, and creates a new courtyard plaza that reveals the historic, 1937 façade. Image courtesy of Studio Gang and SCAPE.

The Arkansas Arts Center’s reimagined MacArthur Park building was named the winner of the 2019 The Architect’s Newspaper Best of Design Awards in the Unbuilt – Cultural category.

Designed by renowned architecture firm Studio Gang, the new building’s distinctive architectural identity signifies the Art Center’s role as a cultural beacon for the future of Arkansas while celebrating the institution’s proud legacy. Scheduled to open in 2022, the project will strengthen the Arkansas Arts Center as the region’s leading visual and performing arts institution.

Arkansas Arts Center model detail. Image courtesy of Studio Gang.

The Architect’s Newspaper Best of Design award honor exceptional architecture, design and building projects throughout Canada, Mexico and the United States. The annual awards also point to trends in the building design.

“Sensitivity and subtlety were at a premium,” The Architect’s Newspaper editors wrote of this year’s awardees. “Winners were chosen for their contextual, tactical approaches rather than big, bombastic ideas.”

Studio Gang’s design for the reimagined Arkansas Arts Center creates where the community can enjoy all the benefits of engaging with the arts. The new building will feature two entrances – the north courtyard entrance features a nod to past in the beautifully preserved 1937 façade of the Museum of Fine Arts. The south entrance opens into MacArthur Park. Prominent glass-enclosed spaces at either entrance welcome visitors into the building from MacArthur Park at the south and downtown Little Rock at the north.

View toward MacArthur Park from the Atrium, which connects the Arkansas Arts Center’s three programmatic pillars: the Museum School, Galleries, and Children’s Theatre. Image courtesy of Studio Gang.

Inside, visitors will find expertly lit galleries to feature the Arts Center’s 14,000-work collection of international art. A full schedule of dynamic special exhibitions will celebrate the artistic history and current work of the Delta region while bringing world-class exhibitions from around the world to Little Rock. The Museum School will feature fully equipped studios for drawing, painting, printmaking, ceramics, glass, wood, and metalsmithing classes for children and adults, along with a gallery space for displaying student work. State-of-the-art main stage and black box theatre spaces will host Children’s Theatre programming, films and performing arts events. The innovative “Living Room” will create space for community and social gatherings, quiet reflection, and everything in between with views of downtown Little Rock. A full-service restaurant will feature indoor and shaded outdoor seating overlooking MacArthur Park. The design also includes a Museum Shop, collections research room, and a lecture hall for public programs.

The project also features a revitalized MacArthur Park landscape, designed by Kate Orff and SCAPE. The landscape, inspired by Little Rock’s unique ecologies, will expand the connections between the building and MacArthur Park through native and sustainable planting and water reclamation. Landscape pathways, a great lawn and open areas will allow for vibrant, outdoor community programming.

Aerial view showing how the reimagined Arkansas Arts Center creates new pathways and connections to MacArthur Park. The design includes a new restaurant with outdoor shaded seating, walking paths, and a great lawn. Over time, a tree canopy will develop, creating a true “Arts Center in a Park.” Image courtesy of Studio Gang and SCAPE.

“The reimagined Arkansas Arts Center will be a place that showcases art that educates, inspires, provokes and beautifies our lives,” Executive Director Victoria Ramirez said. “We imagine this project as one that will chart the future of the arts in Little Rock, and we are honored to see that it is already being recognized as such.”

The transformation of the Arkansas Arts Center into a state-of-the-art facility will be realized through a $128 million special fundraising campaign, Reimagining the Arkansas Arts Center: Campaign for Our Cultural Future. The campaign will also provide transition and opening support, while also strengthening the Arkansas Arts Center Foundation’s endowment, yielding support for operations, exhibitions, acquisitions, and education and outreach programming in the new building. 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.

Nighttime view from downtown Little Rock of the Arkansas Arts Center’s new north entrance. A new plaza opens the historic 1937 façade onto Crescent Drive. Above, the Cultural Living Room acts as a community gathering and event space. Image courtesy of Studio Gang and SCAPE.

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.

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Postcards from the Collection: Degas at the Opera

Author: Arkansas Arts CenterFiled under: Collection, Museum

photo of the author

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.

Edgar Hilaire Germain Degas, French (Paris, France, 1834 – 1917, Paris, France), Trois danseuses nues (Three Nude Dancers), circa 1903, charcoal on paper, 30 3/4 x 25 9/16 inches, Arkansas Arts Center Foundation Collection: Purchase, Fred W. Allsopp Memorial Acquisition Fund. 1983.010.002

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.

Because all cargo going on a passenger jet must be screened before departure, I accompanied the crate to a TSA screening facility where it was checked and cleared for shipment. Next, it was on to the cargo warehouse for flight preparation.
While at the cargo warehouse, it was consolidated onto a pallet with three other crates from regional lending institutions. The three other couriers and I watched as the crates were placed on large metal pallet, wrapped in plastic, and then secured by a cargo net. With the pallet registration number in hand, I turned responsibility over to an armed police officer who guarded the pallet until it was loaded onto the plane.
At the gate, I watched the pallet as it was loaded onto the plane. After confirming with the police officer that the cargo door was closed and secured, I boarded the plane. In Paris, the process was repeated, but in reverse. We were met at the gate by our customs broker who waited with us while we watched the pallet offload from the plane. We then traveled to the customs warehouse where the pallet is delivered and unpacked. The crates go through customs, where paperwork is reviewed and details confirmed. Finally the crates are loaded onto a secure, climatized truck.

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.

More than 48 hours after leaving Little Rock, the crate was delivered to the Musée d’Orsay and stored onsite until it was ready to be installed.

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.

After a day in storage to acclimate to the environment in Paris, we uncrated the drawing, and I examined its condition with a conservator.

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.

Trois danseuses nues from the Arkansas Arts Center Foundation Collection (center) is on display between a work from collection of the Bibliothèque nationale de France (left) and a work from the Musée d’Orsay’s collection (right).

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.

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Delta Exhibition to bridge Arkansas River

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

The 61st Annual Delta Exhibition in 2019.

The Arkansas Arts Center’s 62nd Annual Delta Exhibition will be featured across venues in downtown Little Rock and North Little Rock in summer 2020. A portion of the exhibition’s artworks will appear at Historic Arkansas Museum in Little Rock while other selections are featured at the Thea Foundation and Argenta Gallery in the Argenta Arts District in downtown North Little Rock.  Expanding the Delta Exhibition out into the community is part of the Arts Center’s commitment to remaining vibrant, accessible and community-oriented while its MacArthur Park building is under construction over the next two-and-a-half years.

“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.

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