Jeanne Gang, architect, with Warren and Harriet Stephens, Arkansas Arts Center capital campaign heads

Studio Gang image of the new Arkansas Arts Center

It may not compare with the $1 billion the Walton family has invested in Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art in Bentonville, but we’ll take $118 million raised so far and expect that to grow to the $128 million goal to renovate and add on to the Arkansas Arts Center.


Capital campaign leaders Warren and Harriet Stephens announced the capital campaign progress tonight at a special event at the Arts Center, where a large crowd of wealthy donors and Arts Center supporters gathered to hear architect Jeanne Gang talk about her firm’s final plans for the new AAC. Ground is to be broken this fall; completion is scheduled for fall 2022.

The $118 million raised so far includes the city’s contribution of about $32 million. The single largest donor to the campaign is a $35 million gift from the Windgate Foundation, which has made stunning gifts to arts facilities across Arkansas. John and Robyn Horn (a trustee of the foundation) were present tonight and received a standing ovation for the gift. The Museum School gallery will be named for the Horns. The Windgate gift will also provide two curatorial positions: the Windgate Foundation Curator of Contemporary Craft (Robyn Horn is a wood artist of renown) and the Jackye and Curtis Finch Jr. Curator of Drawings. The Winthrop Rockefeller Charitable Trust, a separate entity from the WR Foundation has made a gift of $5 million.


The list of others who have pledged to give $1 million or more  — the 21st Century Founders — includes capital campaign co-chairs Harriett and Warren Stephens (the new permanent and temporary galleries will be named for them), Chucki and Curt Bradbury, The Brown Foundation of Houston (whose founders include Alice Pratt Brown, who was born in Siloam Springs), the city of Little Rock, Mandy and Bill Dillard, Anne and Merritt Dyke in memory honor of Helen Porter and James T. Dyke, Helen Porter and Jim Dyke, Terri and Chuck Erwin, Dede and and Scott Ford and Joe Ellen and Joe Ford, Robyn and John Horn, Ben and Walter Hussman and the Hussman Foundation, the Keller Family Foundation and the Rev. Christoph Keller III and Julie Keller, Mary Olive Keller Stephens and John Calhoun Stephens, Lynn and George O’Connor, the Winthrop Rockefeller Charitable Trust, the state of Arkansas, the Stella Boyle Smith Trust, Barbara Tyson, the Windgate Foundation and two anonymous donors.

Six-figure donors, Leadership Donors, include Virginia Stuart Cobb, Sandra and Robert O’Connor, the family of H. Tyndall and Carrie R. Dickinson, Jackye and Curtis Finch Jr., Rosalyn and Harry Hastings family, Donna and Mack McLarty, the Middleton Family, Kay and Bill Patton, Lisenne Rockefeller, Cindy and Warren Simpson, the Roy and Christine Sturgis Charitable Trust, the Trinity Foundation, Dianne and Bobby Tucker, Boots and Alan Warrick, Sherry Worthen in memory of George Worthen, and five anonymous donors.


Gang presented slides of the newest (and presumably final) renderings of the Arts Center. There is little obvious change from the design Studio Gang presented last year. She noted the difficulty of making the various programs of the Arts Center — its galleries, theater and museum school — clearly visible to the public, rather than the rabbit warren that successive additions to the original 1937 building in MacArthur Park created. The new design features a second-level multi-gabled “cultural living room” that extends beyond a courtyard and in front of a renovated  WPA-designed entrance to the Fine Arts Building. That old entrance can now be seen within the galleries of the Arts Center; it will be re-exposed.

A wide, central hallway two-stories tall and filled with glass will bisect the new arts center, with its “blossom” creating cover at the south entrance, where a restaurant will be located.  Gang said the landscaping, by New York firm SCAPE, ill include cypress trees framing the entrance and in groves on the south and an oak savannah shading the parking area and southern entrance.