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Arkansas Museum of Fine Arts sowing seeds of community art garden

Arkansas Museum of Fine Arts
A photo shows a sampling of the tens of thousands of paper lotus flowers which will make up the Arkansas Museum of Fine Arts' community-built Art Garden.

A new community project will help kick off the opening of the brand-new Arkansas Museum of Fine Arts.

Formerly known as the Arkansas Arts Center, the museum’s newly-reimagined space is set to open in Little Rock’s MacArthur Park in April. While the new facility will be the centerpiece, a new community art installation will also feature prominently on the opening weekend.

Miranda Young, the museum’s associate director of community engagement, says they’re currently taking submissions for a community “Art Garden,” which will feature roughly 10,000 lotus flowers made from folded paper.

“We were looking for a way to convey the message that this really is everyone’s museum, and we’re here to serve all of Arkansas. And we just kind of decided that having a large, community-represented art installation was a great way to kick off our grand opening festivities,” Young said.

She says students from 67 schools across Arkansas have already begun work on the project. Young says she hopes the range of materials used to create the flowers, as well as the different people involved in the project, helps reflect the diversity of the community.

“We’ve had people fold out of old map, we’ve had people fold them out of newspapers or out of magazine pages that they’ve found the colors interesting. So really anything that you have around you can use, or just your traditional origami paper works as well. But we really just want to see people get creative with it,” Young said.

The museum will have drop boxes on display at local libraries through March 24 for members of the public to drop off their completed origami lotuses. Boxes will be available at the Argenta Public Library, CALS Main Library, Dee Brown Library, Maumelle Library and the Thompson Library

Young says the lotus flower was chosen for its significance, as well as its visual similarity to the new museum facility’s roof line.

“The lotus can have all of these meanings behind it, which is connection, coming together, creation, strength and new beginnings, and so it kind of just all fit together to make a great representation and a great flower to represent our re-imagining,” Young said.

Instructions on how to fold a paper lotus and submit it to the museum are available online at The Arkansas Museum of Fine Arts is set to re-open to the public on April 22, 2023.

Daniel Breen is a Little Rock-based reporter, anchor and producer for KUAR.