Mosaic Templars Museum Raising Funds To Renovate Exhibit Space

Jul 8, 2019

State and museum officials pose with Union Pacific CEO Lance Fritz at Monday's press conference announcing the railroad's $300,000 "foundational gift."
Credit Michael Hibblen / KUAR News

The Mosaic Templars Cultural Center, which tells the story of African-Americans in Arkansas, is striving to raise $3 million to renovate its educational exhibit space. The museum opened in 2008 in a spot that was once the heart of Little Rock’s black community.

During a ceremony Monday with Gov. Asa Hutchinson at the state Capitol, backers of the fundraising campaign accepted the museum’s largest-ever corporate donation. Union Pacific Railroad, which employed about 2,600 people in the state as of last year, gave $300,000 toward the campaign.

"Together with our community we have developed an interpretive design plan to reimagine the museum’s educational exhibit space as a modern and engaging space for visitors of all ages," said museum Director Christina Shutt. "This expanded vision will allow us to tell a more complete story of Arkansas through the lens of African-Americans."

The capital campaign is called "Innovate. Collaborate. Renovate." Goals include soliciting new collections, creating new partnerships and hosting temporary exhibits, according to the musuem's website.

"We’ll be talking about great places like Hoxie, Arkansas that actually integrated before Little Rock’s Central High. We’ll be talking about stories of success like Scipio Jones, but also really expanding to talk about rural life in Arkansas," Shutt said. Jones was a prominent lawyer, judge and philanthropist who guided the appeals of 12 African-Americans sentenced to death after the Elaine race riot of 1919.

Union Pacific President and CEO Lance Fritz was in Arkansas to formally present the donation. Capital Campaign Chair Ronnie Dedman, who is president of AT&T Arkansas, thanked Fritz during the ceremony.

"Your gift energizes and inspires me and the capital campaign committee to work hard. We certainly know that we’ve got a lot of work to do if we’re going to make it to $3 million," Dedman said.

Campaign organizers also said Monday they had secured a $248,000 grant from the Institute of Museum and Library Services, which will require matching funds from the state.

The Mosaic Templars of America was a black fraternal organization created in Little Rock in 1883. Its building at 501 W. 9th Street was built in 1913 and had been purchased by the city to be preserved, but was destroyed by a fire in 2005. It was rebuilt and is today part of the Department of Arkansas Heritage.