The Arkansas Arts Center has a new name: the Arkansas Museum of Fine Arts. Leaders gathered at a press conference today to announce the new name and provide an update on its facility, which is being renovated and expanded.
“This truly is a beacon of light,” Mayor Frank Scott, Jr. said, signing a proclamation to formalize the new name. “It will help all in Central Arkansas and the state of Arkansas understand how art impacts us all.”
The new name, it should be noted, is also a return to the center’s original name. From the Encyclopedia of Arkansas’s entry on AAC:
In 1937, its core supporters and volunteers contributed to the creation of the Museum of Fine Arts in Little Rock’s MacArthur Park. In 1959, in cooperation with the museum’s Fine Arts Club, the Little Rock Junior League, and the city of Little Rock, the future governor and first lady—Winthrop and Jeannette Rockefeller—agreed to help launch a statewide capital campaign to enlarge the museum significantly and expand its programs. The museum was created by city ordinance in 1961 and renamed the Arkansas Arts Center.
Speakers included Arkansas Arts Center Building Committee Chair and Capital Campaign Co-Chair Harriet Stephens, Arkansas Arts Center Foundation Chair and Capital Campaign Co-Chair Warren Stephens, Arkansas Arts Center Board of Trustees President (and 10-year board member) Van Tilbury, Mayor Scott and Arkansas Arts Center Executive Director Victoria Ramirez.
Despite being stymied by the “sacrifices and tough decisions” that 2020 brought, the Arkansas Museum of Fine Arts surpassed its campaign fundraising goals of $128 million and, Ramirez said, has raised $135,944,426 to date. Gifts from the Windgate Foundation, the Winthrop-Rockefeller Charitable Trust, the state of Arkansas, Terri and Chuck Erwin and $31 million generated from the city of Little Rock through a hotel tax and revenue bond contributed to the project. Fundraising goals have been revised to $142 million, which Warren Stephens said would be put toward landscaping 10 acres of MacArthur park for green space and outdoor programming, crucial endowment funds for annual expenses, and to allow the museum to “do what it does best. It also allows us to offer free admission to everyone, every day.”
Designs for the additional $14 million in funds, Ramirez said, include new plans for 15% more gallery space than initially planned, added programming and “transforming even more of MacArthur Park into landscape space designed to host a variety or programs and events.”
The opening is scheduled to occur in 2022.
The new building, Tilbury said, “will be stunning. … both a place for the arts and a welcoming place for all in our community.”