Victoria Ramirez

In a virtual board meeting today at noon, leaders at Arkansas Museum of Fine Arts gathered at the museum’s temporary Riverdale location to announce updates on the museum’s multi-million dollar renovation and on its reopening, slated for 2022. Speakers included museum director Victoria Ramirez, Mayor Frank Scott Jr., museum foundation chair Warren Stephens, museum board president Van Tilbury, and Building Committee Chair/board member Harriet Stephens. 

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In January, the museum announced its renaming, rebranding, and the increase of its renovation fundraising goal from $128 million to $142 million. 

“Art sees no race, it sees no gender, it sees no culture,” the mayor said. “It opens all of our minds to see a brighter day. … This is bigger than Little Rock. This is about Central Arkansas saying, “We are here to show the world what we are all about.’ “

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Stephens cited over 675 acquisitions made over the last year, as well as loans the museum had made to other exhibitions around the country  — a Cezanne for the Museum of Modern Art, four pieces to Crystal Bridges’ craft exhibition. In an update on the museum’s capital campaign, Harriet and Warren Stephens emphasized that funds were earmarked, in part, to “the need for modernized vaults to properly store the collection.” Harriet shared new photographs of the museum’s construction progress; including the building’s “1937 lobby” — an homage to the museum’s roots; the high-ceilinged atrium; botanical plans for the twelve acres of landscaped grounds, including an event lawn, which Filmland attendees got a glimpse of Friday night. 

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Brian Chilson
THE FACE OF THE FUTURE: The Arkansas Museum of Fine Arts opens in 2022 with a new facade, an expanded and reconfigured interior and a new name.

Ramirez rounded out the meeting by reading a portion of a letter of encouragement from Gov. Asa Hutchinson and by reviewing the breakdown of financial contributions, which totaled $4.4 million and included special COVID-related relief grants. Ramirez lobbied for more support for future programming, including funds to hire more staff for the building’s reopening.

“The most frequent question we receive from our members is about programmatic plans,” Ramirez said, but offered less-then-concrete answers to that question, highlighting the museum’s virtual Delta exhibition features on artists like Justin Bryant and Aaron Turner; the museum’s new smartphone app; partnerships with Mosaic Templars Cultural Center, Ballet Arkansas, and with Arkansas PBS show “Blueberry’s Clubhouse”; pandemic-era “pop-up engagements” in local parks; a new Zoom series called “Sparking Dialogue Through Drama,” focused on conversations around anti-racism.