The Arkansas Arts Center has officially broken ground on a new $70 million reimagining project, nearly a year and a half after it was announced.
Officials broke ground on the project outside of the center's MacArthur Park facility in downtown Little Rock Tuesday, a little over a month after the museum moved to a temporary facility in a former Walmart in Riverdale.
The ceremony coincided with the beginning of incoming Executive Director Victoria Ramirez's tenure leading the institution.
"The other day I said to Mayor [Frank] Scott that the transformed Arts Center will put Little Rock on the cultural destination map, and I am a woman of my word. We're going to do it," Ramirez said.
Ramirez, joined by architect Jeanne Gang and landscape designer Kate Orff, outlined the new take on the space.
"The landscape is now able to embrace the potential of this incredible center's setting in MacArthur Park," Orff said. "The building structure really opens up to embrace its setting, and so in the landscape design we've also modified the geometry to create a series of parks that radiate out into the park."
Highly visible glass and wood entrances will greet visitors approaching from the north and south, and a sloping nature-inspired roof will allow rainwater to flow back into the lawn surrounding the museum. The new facility will also feature a fully redesigned Museum School, as well as a new indoor/outdoor restaurant space and 5,000 square foot "cultural living room" that will serve as a flexible social space.
Major funding for the project came from private funds, as well as a 2% lodging tax passed by Little Rock voters in 2016. So far, the museum has raised over $122.7 million toward its capital campaign goal of $128 million.
Little Rock Mayor Frank Scott Jr. said the ultimate goal of the project is to connect the museum and the community.
"I'm grateful that Dr. Ramirez is the right person at the helm to make us a cultural destination, and as a cultural destination it will help us to be like the phoenix bird. That we rise from the ashes, that we're born again anew; and as we are born again anew, we will lead this city on to greater paths. And we do it in becoming a catalyst for the New South," Scott said.
Construction on the facility is set to be complete in 2022.
Correction: A previous version of this story made an innacurate reference to the number of artworks housed at the museum's temporary facility.