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First Rembrandt Inspires Membership Boost At Arkansas Art Center

William Strigel

The Arkansas Arts Center added 570 new members, roughly a 15 percent increase, to its roster as a result of its most recent exhibition, “Rembrandt, Van Dyck, Gainsborough: Treasures of Kenwood House, London,” according to the center's Chief Financial Officer Laine Harber.

The exhibit of impressionist painters, which included the first Rembrandt painting ever to be displayed in Arkansas, exceeded the center's membership expectations, Harber said. It wrapped up this past Sunday.

The increase in membership was budgeted, he said, but it brought in about $23,000 more than usual, or was 27 percent more than the average during a paid exhibition.

By comparison, the Arts Center's most successful exhibit in recent history was the Impressionism gallery, which was on display in Spring of 2011. That exhibit netted 450 new members.

Total membership is up from 3700 in June to over 4300 as of Monday. The numbers also indicate that the Arts Center is running a surplus, a budgetary detail, which comes in stark contrast to the 2009 deficit of $1.9 million, which followed the “World of the Pharaohs” exhibition.

Sunday evening at the official close of the Rembrandt exhibit, a small crowd gathered at the Art Center to take one last look. Executive director Todd Herman said he was “quite pleased” with the numbers and attendance, especially because “it’s often difficult to tell [how many people to expect], as summer trends vary,” he said.

One factor in the exhibit's success can be attributed, Herman said, to the many summer school tours from across the nation that stopped in to see the exhibit.

In its last two days, the Arts Center counted 1,500 attendees who wanted a last minute glimpse. Herman said he thinks this exhibit went a long way toward establishing a trend he sees forming for support of the arts in Arkansas.

Remmel T. Dickinson, an Emmy winning Broadway producer and one of the sponsors who worked to bring the gallery to Little Rock, said that “it was worth all the effort” in the support he had seen the exhibit bring to the arts in the state.

Sunday evening at the exhibit’s close, as onlookers snapped photos, a pair of actors posing as royal guards ceremonially closed the gallery.

The gallery’s next exhibition, “Mark Rothko in the 1940s: The Decisive Decade,” will feature some of the most valuable pieces by the artist. It is scheduled to run Oct. 25-Feb. 9, 2014.