The Arkansas Arts Center will stay open from 5-9 p.m. tonight for an after-hours showing of “Rembrandt, Van Dyck, Gainsborough: The Treasures of Kenwood House, London,” its wonderful exhibit of masterworks from the 17th, 18th and 19th centuries. Jon L. Seydl, curator of European painting and sculpture at the Cleveland Museum of Art, will give a talk tonight from 6-7 p.m. (tickets are $10 to non-members, free to members).
The show has been credited with bringing 236 new members to the Arts Center, development director Kelly Ford told the board of directors’ finance committee yesterday. Just under 5,000 people from 33 states have come to see the exhibition, 443 of them from out of Arkansas. The remaining visitors are divided roughly in half by Little Rock/North Little Rock visitors and visitors from outside the central cities. People traveling to see the show are making the right decision; it’s worth visiting for the Rembrandt alone, along with Van Dyck, Gainesborough, Sir Joshua Reynolds, J.M.W. Turner, Edwin Landseer and others.
The finance committee also learned yesterday that museum shop and Best Impressions restaurant sales have been way up thanks to the exhibition. The Arts Center received $400,000 in sponsorships for the show; its goal is to break even on ticket ($12) and other sales; new membership dollars ($12,000 over budget so far) are icing on the cake. The show runs through Sept. 8. You’d be nuts to skip it.
Arts Center Director Tod Herman told the finance and executive committees yesterday that he believes the Arts Center can move past survival mode, thanks to tight budgeting the past two years and no debt; it ended the 2013 fiscal year $6,612 to the good. The Arts Center will begin work on its strategic plan this year — it had planned to last year, but put it off to keep the budget balanced — work to identify what its goals are for the immediate future, including for the physical plant as well as management.
Herman also said he hoped to “solidify” funding sources, and “intensify” state funding. The Arts Center’s state services program includes its traveling Children’s Theatre productions, the Artmobile and the Young Arkansas Artists exhibition; state reimbursement (actually federal dollars passed through the Arkansas Arts Council) add up to about “a penny a person,” Ford said.
The board of directors and Herman also talked again about the issue of whether the Arts Center, which is a city agency, should seek non-profit 501(c)(3) status. Herman said grantmakers are confused by the Arts Center’s status and that memberships and other tax-deductible gifts to the Arts Center must be run through the Arkansas Arts Center’s Foundation, an operating foundation that holds the permanent collection and provides general operating support to the Arts Center. Would that allow the non-profit’s board to meet in private rather than publicly as it does now? Could that be one reason the Arts Center is studying it? Or am I paranoid? Lawyer readers are welcome to answer these questions (except the one about paranoia).
Herman also noted that the Fine Arts Club will celebrate its 100th anniversary next year by resurrecting the Beaux Arts Ball and that proceeds will benefit the Arts Center.