The Arkansas Arts Center Board of Trustees, meeting today by Zoom videoconferencing, got the less than surprising news in the time of COVID-19 that it was more than $300,000 under budget for the year and that the loss of Museum School revenues, which makes up half the Arts Center’s earned revenues, amounted to $400,000. But, CFO Laine Harber said, the Arts Center will end the year with a balanced budget with the help of “sacrifices and tough decisions.” (The Arts Center furloughed 15 employees in April, but has been able to bring some of those back thanks to donations.)
The AAC is in the same boat, though more buoyant, with the rest of the arts industry. A survey by the nonprofit Americans for the Arts has put losses to cultural and art institutions at $4.5 billion.
The Arts Center’s finance committee will meet Thursday, May 21, to hear more about how the AAC plans to weather fiscal year 2021, when it will be crucial to prepare for the opening of the new facility in MacArthur Park in 2022.
Director Victoria Ramirez showed trustees an aerial video of the construction of the new arts center. The opening, scheduled for January 2022, will likely be delayed but the expanded Arts Center will open in 2022 “on budget.” Personnel demands will be great: “The main goal we have to keep in mind is we need staff to be at MacArthur Park getting trained on the new building and staff at Riverdale [where the Arts Center is temporarily located] preparing for the move back,” Ramirez said. “There are certain key positions that we need for the new building and need to bring on board in fiscal year 2021. The priorities are all about the new building, projects that need to be prepared for the new building and adequate staff in place for the new building.”
Ramirez lauded the creativity of the AAC staff in putting its summer school online, and noted that people from outside Little Rock, now able to participate, have asked for online classes to continue. The “Young Arkansas Artists’ show” is online, and Ramirez said the online awards presentation to students and the show drew the largest audience ever, which spokesperson Angel Galloway said later was 6,000 page views. The 62nd “Delta Exhibition” will also be online, and Ramirez said the Arts Center will be analyzing website data to determine statewide interest in the popular show. She said the positive reaction to the Arts Center’s online programming will inform its plans for the reopened AAC.
Ramirez said the response to the $128 million capital campaign to build the new facility continues and that donors have been generous despite the drop in the markets. Gifts exceeded budget expectations by $166,000.
The board will meet again June 22.