Arkansas Museum of Fine Arts to reopen in April 2023; capital campaign tops $150 million
September 26 - October 2, 2022
By The Daily Record Staff
After undergoing a $150 million transformation that began just months before COVID-19 was declared a global pandemic, the Arkansas Museum of Fine Arts (AMFA) will hold its highly anticipated grand reopening in the spring of 2023.
Formerly called the Arkansas Arts Center, the state’s oldest and largest cultural institution of its kind will reopen to the public again on April 22, 2023, museum officials announced on Sept. 14. Actual planning for the multimillion redesign in the city’s downtown MacArthur Park began in 2016 and construction started in October 2019.
Designed by world-renowned, Chicago-based 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, Gov. Winthrop Rockefeller Lecture Hall, Terri and Chuck Erwin Collections Research Center, a performing arts theater, a modern restaurant and more.
The interior supports fine art galleries, an arts school and a children’s theater, which have been extensively renovated. Approximately 40,000 square feet of new construction includes a new gallery, administrative and education spaces, a restaurant, retail space and new entrances. One feature of the galleries is a large wall for exhibits that face windows overlooking the park and surrounding neighborhood — an enticement to people walking by outside. The museum’s social gathering space is also a “cultural living room” designed to hold social events and other programming.
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. Polk Stanley Wilcox Architects of Little Rock, and a tri-venture of Nabholz, Pepper, Doyne Construction companies were also involved in the project.
According to the original plans, the museum space blends elements of the original 1937 Art Deco structure, which will serve as an entrance to the center with stunning contemporary design. Its signature roof — a flowing, folded-plate concrete structure — blossoms to the north and south. Below the roof is a custom curtain wall system that allows for breathtaking views of MacArthur Park.
“For six years, a dedicated team has been working to create an inclusive cultural space that inspires and builds community. Not only will it offer an array of visual arts, performing arts and educational opportunities, it will provide a beautiful venue for people to connect with each other,” said AMFA’s Executive Director Dr. Victoria Ramirez.
According to AMFA Capital Campaign Co-Chairs Warren and Harriet Stephens, the fundraising drive for the project has exceeded the original goal of $142 million. The capital campaign, called “Reimagining the Arkansas Museum of Fine Arts,” includes a $31,245,000 contribution from the City of Little Rock, generated through a hotel tax revenue bond approved by voters.
“Over the past few years, we’ve been privileged to collaborate with an extraordinary group of architects, artisans, contractors and skilled tradespeople to reenvision 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,” said Harriet Stephens, who is also chair of the AMFA Building Committee. “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.”
“This is an extraordinary project. My family’s roots, like so many others in Arkansas, run deep,” said Warren Stephens, chairman and CEO of Stephens Inc. “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. In fact, today we are announcing a new goal of $155 million.”
According to museum officials, there are 30 donors at the 21st Century Founders level who have contributed gifts between $1 million and $35 million, 95 donors at the Leadership level, contributing between $100,000 and $999,999, as well as 96 contributors at the Major Donor level, giving between $25,000 and $99,999. Numerous other individuals, families, businesses and foundations have also made generous donations at every gift level.
Overwhelming private support to date has nearly quintupled the impact of the public contribution to the project. Lead donors include Windgate Foundation, Harriet and Warren Stephens, the Winthrop Rockefeller Charitable Trust, Terri and Chuck Erwin, and the State of Arkansas.
“This is truly a public-private partnership, made possible through the generosity, commitment, passion for arts and culture, and love for our community and state,” added Ms. Stephens.
“The reimagined Arkansas Museum of ine Arts will be a beacon not just for downtown, or even for all of Little Rock, but for the region,” added 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.”
At last week’s announcement, a new marketing campaign, Perfect Timing, was introduced, launching a series of announcements highlighting the exhibitions, programming and membership opportunities the community can anticipate when AMFA opens in 2023. To build further excitement, AMFA unveiled a LED wall inside the new building with a giant clock counting down to opening day, visible through the 32-foot, second-floor Art Perch window overlooking 9th Street.
“The transformation is full speed ahead. It’s T minus 219 days until April 22 — when we will fittingly invite the entire community to be the very first to enjoy our amazing new museum,” said Ramirez.
For more information on how to participate in the AMFA capital campaign, email the museum’s development office at email@example.com.
Landscaping View from the South: This aerial view shows how the reimagined Arkansas Museum of Fine Arts creates new pathways and connections to MacArthur Park. The design includes a new restaurant with outdoor shaded seating, walking paths, and a great lawn. Over time, a tree canopy will develop, creating a true “Museum in a Park.” Image courtesy of Studio Gang and SCAPE.