The leadership of the Arkansas Arts Center announced at its annual meeting and luncheon today that it has just completed its sixth year in the black, continuing its recovery from a budget black hole created by an expensive blockbuster exhibition, “World of the Pharaohs.”
It’s been a good year for the Arts Center. Little Rock voters decided to use the last two pennies the Convention and Visitors Bureau could assess to fund a $37 million bond issue to renovate the Arts Center. Promised private funding has yet to be announced. The Arkansas Arts Center
Foundation, the nonprofit that holds the artwork, announced its endowment stood at $25 million.
It was also announced that 24 architectural firms have expressed interest in the estimated $65 million Arts Center renovation. Arts Center consultant Deborah Frieden will give a public talk at 5:30 p.m. Sept. 22 on “how the process is going to work,” Foundation representative Bobby Tucker said.
That would be nice to include the public, since the city Little Rock has given up tax revenues that would otherwise go to promotion. Little Rock Mayor Mark Stodola said he wanted to encourage public “involvement” and that people interested in the work of the Arts Center should “let us know.” He said Director Todd Herman and the Arts Center Board of Directors was “always looking for good members.” Well, good members that can afford to pony up $5,000 and raise another five grand every year. Then came the recognition of new board members (Marion Fulk, Gordon Silaski and Diane Jonsson), ex-officio members (Clark Huisman, Neil Gillespie and Pat Luzzi) and the sitting board. I’m sure they’ll be very good, but again the Arts Center has come up with an all-white roster. The attendance at today’s annual meeting was such that Director Herman tossed off a reference to “Wednesday Fried Chicken Night” in a plea for private funds and got many laughs. What? You didn’t know about fried chicken night at the Country Club of Little Rock?
Brian Lang, chief curator and curator of contemporary crafts, got to do the fun part: Announcing that there were 187 new works of art added to the permanent collection. There were 29 purchases and 158 donations, and among the new items are the works you see pictured here, plus jewelry by Elsie Freund, a work by Jennifer Bartlett, a William Beckman charcoal, a work by local artist Sally Williams, illustrator James Daugherty and other works.