Art appreciation

Still, the Arkansas Arts Center scores successes at its annual meeting

A pandemic … in the midst of a major project.

This combination could have sent other art museums to pack their bags. But the Arkansas Arts Center, which rose to life like a phoenix from the ashes of adversity, has had a banner year. This was reported during its annual reunion, a virtual September 21 event that aired from the centre’s temporary digs in the Riverdale neighborhood of Little Rock.

Mayor Frank D. Scott Jr. joined Board Chairman Van Tilbury, Foundation Chairman Warren Stephens, Building Committee Chairman Harriet Stephens and Executive Director Victoria Ramirez in congratulating the Board, Foundation, staff and community for accomplishments which included a balanced budget for the 11th consecutive year the Arts Center ended in the dark.

Tilbury recognized outgoing directors Merritt Dyke, Dale Ronnel, Ashley Merriman and Patrick O’Sullivan, as well as outgoing officers Heather Wardle, Shantea Nelson and Jim Gorman. He also introduced new directors Le’Kita Brown, Khayyam M. Eddings, Cathy Mayton and Larry Middleton and new ex officio agents Melanie Buchanan, Ruby Ben and Paul Bash.

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Warren Stephens, also co-chair of the fundraising campaign, acknowledged the service of the outgoing president of the Bobby Tucker Foundation and discussed the foundation’s continued efforts to conserve collectible works. Fundraising co-chair Harriet Stephens provided an update on the progress of the new arts center, noting that it is on schedule and on budget despite covid-19 and weather. The new Arts Center, whose land was inaugurated on October 1, 2019, will open in 2022. The fundraising campaign, meanwhile, raised $ 122.7 million of its goal of $ 128 million.

Additionally, Harriet Stephens “led” attendees through some key areas of the building, including the glass-fronted culture lounge and the six acres of landscaping around the building.

Ramirez described the steps taken for the Arkansas Arts Center over the past year. Other achievements noted:

• Partnerships with cultural organizations near and far, including the Central Arkansas Library System, and loans of works from the foundation’s collection to museums and art centers in Paris, Washington, Cleveland, Jonesboro, Pine Bluff and Columbia , SC

• Partnerships with Historic Arkansas Museum, Thea Foundation, Acansa Gallery and the Argenta branch of the William F. Laman Library in North Little Rock to host the 62nd annual Delta Exhibit.

• The launch of 22 & You, a special membership program for those who are committed to maintaining their membership through the opening of the new Arts Center.

Michael Mayton received the Winthrop Rockefeller Memorial Award. The annual award honors those who serve and support the arts and the Arts Center beyond the normal call of duty.

– Story and photos by Helaine R. Williams and Cary Jenkins