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Arkansas Museum of Fine Arts starts countdown to April 22 reopening

Arkansas Museum of Fine Arts board members and local officials flipped a switch during a ceremony Wednesday on a countdown clock for the reopening of the museum on April 22.
Talk Business & Politics
Arkansas Museum of Fine Arts board members and local officials flipped a switch during a ceremony Wednesday on a countdown clock for the reopening of the museum on April 22.

Amidst the backdrop of the new façade of the Arkansas Museum of Fine Arts in historic MacArthur Park, business and civic leaders and arts patrons celebrated Wednesday a new financial milestone and a grand opening date for the transformative renovation project.

Capital campaign co-chairs Harriet and Warren Stephens announced the fundraising goal for the museum was being raised from $142 million to $155 million based on the strength of fundraising responses.

“I’ve said this many times before: Arkansans are generous. We do more in this state than most states can achieve,” Harriet Stephens, who is also AMFA’s Building Committee Chair, tells Talk Business & Politics.

“Over the past few years, we’ve been privileged to collaborate with an extraordinary group of architects, artisans, contractors, and skilled tradespeople to re-envision the museum inside and out as a world-class arts destination – and to keep the project moving forward, even through the unprecedented challenges of the pandemic,” she added. “One of our most influential predecessors, Winthrop Rockefeller, always felt this institution was far more than a museum, and it’s been incredibly exciting to see the shared vision for its next chapter come to life.”

The project originally started as a $66 million renovation aimed at upgrading the museum’s HVAC system and other much-needed repairs. Led by Harriet Stephens, supporters began to envision a larger transformation project once they dived into the details.

Warren Stephens tells Talk Business & Politics he has been surprised and thankful for the outpouring of financial support for the project that led to the increased fundraising goal.

“I think once we were able to show people what it had become and then what a game-changer this would be, I think people got on board. We’ve got people who have never donated to the museum before, but they understand what it means to the state and to Little Rock,” Warren Stephens said.

“This is an extraordinary project. My family’s roots, like so many others in Arkansas, run deep. So the excitement is thoroughly shared across the state and beyond, as evidenced by the success of the capital campaign, which has now raised $150.4 million, far exceeding our original goal,” he added.

The grand reopening of the museum to the public is scheduled for April 22, 2023. Dr. Victoria Ramirez, AMFA executive director, said the new facility will offer expanded services to the city and citizens as well as serve as an international destination for the city and state.

“For six years, a dedicated team has been working to create an inclusive cultural space that inspires and builds community. Not only will the Arkansas Museum of Fine Arts offer an array of visual arts, performing arts, and educational opportunities, it will provide a beautiful venue for people to connect with each other,” Ramirez said.

Designed by world-renowned architect Jeanne Gang and her architecture and urban design practice, Studio Gang, the project includes a new 133,000-square-foot building that will house the Windgate Art School, Harriet and Warren Stephens Galleries, Governor Winthrop Rockefeller Lecture Hall, Terri and Chuck Erwin Collections Research Center, a performing arts theater, a modern restaurant, and other offerings.

On the reopening date, AMFA will also unveil eleven acres of landscaping in MacArthur Park by award-winning landscape architect Kate Orff of SCAPE Landscape Architecture.

To date, 30 donors have contributed more than $1 million, the Stephens said. Ninety-five donors have contributed between $100,000 and $1 million. The city of Little Rock has devoted $31.2 million to the capital campaign as part of a hotel tax revenue bond approved by voters.

“The reimagined Arkansas Museum of Fine Arts will be a beacon not just for downtown, or even for all of Little Rock, but for the region,” said Little Rock Mayor Frank Scott, Jr. “Not only is the building’s design a welcoming one, but the programming will emphasize the belief shared by the museum and my administration that equity in access to the arts is important for all. The city is proud of its role in making this dream a reality.”

Roby Brock is the Editor-in-Chief and Host of Talk Business & Politics.
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