I got a note back from Little Rock Mayor Mark Stodola in response to questions about Little Rock’s effort to help the Arkansas Arts Center in its study of a potential new building or location for the institution, long in a city-owned building in MacArthur Park.
North Little Rock Mayor Joe Smith indicated earlier this week that the idea to ask North Little Rock voters to approve a sales tax to pay for a $100 million new facility in downtown North Little Rock had foundered for the time being, perhaps permanently.
Stodola tells me in an e-mail:
We have proposed several new possible locations in LR in the heart of downtown along with major renovation and expansion of the existing facility. We will continue to maintain the building which is city owned. I have been advised that they are staying in LR.
What kind of financial commitment? All I could get from the mayor on that was this:
That has not been finalized, in discussion.
More to come, of course. I mentioned the subject in a column this week, not yet on-line. I have my doubts about a strapped city coming up with significant taxpayer cash for the project and find a new tax proposal a longshot. But polling on the Arts Center reportedly found a warmer reception to the Arts Center in Little Rock than in North Little Rock. I mentioned to another fundamental problem: A lack of broad community interest and/or support in the Arts Center and, where there is interest, some feeling that it’s the preserve of a small group of wealthy people.
Any push for more money will have to deal successfully with the public relations issues. It can be done. The AAC is a worthy institution whose aims are enriching for every element of society. But I’ve been struck repeatedly since I began writing about this issue how little it interests the public at large. It’s a shame.