Dr. Victoria Ramirez of El Paso, Texas, was selected as the new director of the Arkansas Arts Center by the AAC Board of Trustees today at its noon meeting.
Ramirez, the director of the El Paso Museum of Art, and the Arts Center will make things official Oct. 1 with a contract, Merritt Dyke, the chairman of the board, said. She holds an Ed.D. in curriculum and instruction from the University of Houston, a master’s degree in museum education and art history from George Washington University in Washington, D.C., and a bachelor’s degree in art history from the University of Maryland in College Park.
Ramirez will attend the Arts Center’s Open House for members at 5:30 p.m. Monday, Sept. 23.
Ramirez’ name was put forward by the private Arkansas Arts Center Foundation, which used a headhunter to find potential candidates for the job. Previous Director Todd Herman left the Arts Center in August 2018 for a job as president of the Mint Museum in Charlotte, N.C. Laine Harber, the former CFO and deputy director, has served as interim director since.
Ramirez’ hiring was announced after a half-hour executive session today. The press were provided a news release at the close of the session announcing Ramirez’ selection. In the release, Ramirez was quoted:
“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 Co-Chairs Harriett and Warren Stephens to realize the vision for the new Arts Center and launch its next, exciting chapter.”
Dyke declined to say whether anyone else was considered for the leadership of the Arts Center, refusing even to say whether the trustees discussed other candidates. He said the fact that the private foundation’s committee conducted the search meant that its process was not subject to the state’s Freedom of Information Act laws. However, the Arts Center’s own trustees, who oversee a public entity, are not guaranteed the same privacy.
As of May, the city of Little Rock’s contribution — $31.1 million in the form of a bond issue — represents a third of the $118 million raised for the project. The city’s annual contribution to the operation of the Arts Center was $350,000 this year. Noting the public money involved, the Times asked Dyke if that shouldn’t give the public a right to know more about the hiring process. He replied, “$35 million to $100 million?” Asked if he was suggesting that the public’s lesser sum meant the public didn’t count as much as private donors, he replied, “That’s not what I meant.”
Dyke was also hesitant about announcing what Ramirez would be paid, but after some conversation with the press, said he would release that information later today.
The total fundraising goal for the Arts Center redo is $128 million. Dyke said more would be revealed about the private dollars raised at a groundbreaking for the Arts Center at 9:30 a.m. Oct. 1. The Arts Center is considering doing a live cam feed for the construction; Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art in Bentonville also posted images during its construction.