On a rainy day in late January, the Arkansas Arts Center was reborn as the Arkansas Museum of Fine Arts (AMFA). Standing in MacArthur Park, local leaders and project officials announced the rebranding of the cultural institution and the continuing progress being made on the renovation and capital campaign.
AFMA board president Van Tillbury unveiled the new name, with a curtain dropping to reveal a backdrop emblazoned ‘Arkansas Museum of Fine Arts’ behind him. According to Tillbury, the renovation project inspired the local leaders to reimagine the space and its purpose, leading to a bold rebranding.
“A new building like this one will not only better serve our community in the future but has also inspires a complete re-envisioning of who we are and how we best serve our community. By serving our community, we strive to improve the quality of life for everyone in Central Arkansas. But we have also set our sights much higher. We strive for a new arts center that connects Central Arkansas with the region, the nation and beyond. Through art in all of its forms, we seek to build an institution that solidifies Little Rock as a cultural destination,” Tillbury said.
“This name reflects our future but it was carefully chosen with great pride and respect for our past.”
Choosing the name Arkansas Museum of Fine Arts, Tillbury, said reflects the museum’s continued commitment to Arkansans and its statewide outreach to children, families and schools. It also nods to the museum’s early history as the Museum of Fine Arts, which opened in MacArthur Park in 1937. This history has also been incorporated into the new building, with the north entrance of the AMFA bearing the 1937 Art Deco façade from the Museum of Fine Arts.
Little Rock Mayor Frank Scott Jr. called the museum renovation and the rebranding a “catalyst for the New South,” emphasizing the impact that a revitalized museum could have on the city, state and region. Scott went on to make the name change official, signing a proclamation to that effect.
“This is a time that we celebrate Little Rock and Arkansas’ past, present and our bright future,” he said. “This truly is a beacon of light for the city of Little Rock and the state of Arkansas to have this newly renovated Arkansas Museum of Fine Arts, right here, located in the state’s capital city. It will create community impact, educational awareness and economic diversity by focusing on the creative arts and helping all in Little Rock, Central Arkansas and the state of Arkansas understand how much art impacts us all.”
Harriet and Warren Stephens, the co-chairs of the Reimagining the Arkansas Arts Center: Campaign for our Cultural Future fundraising for the museum revealed that the campaign had surpassed its goal. Originally, the campaign’s goal was $128 million. Harriet Stephens told the gathered crowd and virtual audience that the campaign had raised -$135,944,426. At the museum’s groundbreaking in October 2019, the co-chairs had announced that approximately $122 million had been raised. This marked an increase of more than $13 million.
The co-chairs revealed a new campaign goal: $142 million to increase the scope of the renovation. According to Warren Stephens, the increased campaign goal would allow the museum to think bigger by having 10 acres of MacArthur Park landscaped for programming and exhibitions and establishing an endowment to bring more programming to the museum, pay annual expenses and provide everyday free admission.
The increased campaign will also enable a new 5,000 square-foot glass-enclosed Cultural Living Room for social space, large-scale events and exhibition openings, as well as a new Glass Box event space with an outdoor plaza. There will also be a contemporary restaurant with a covered exterior dining pavilion overlooking MacArthur Park with a catering kitchen.
AFMA will also feature a new museum store and expanded free parking to the west of the building.
“If there is anything this past year has taught us, it is the importance of investing in the future to safeguard our community. When you invest in this campaign, you are not only investing in the museum. You are investing in Arkansas and our future,” he said.
To date there have been 24 donors who have contributed between $1-35 million; these donors are the 21stCentury Founder donors. There have been 55 Leadership donors who have contributed between $100,000 and $999,999, and there have been 34 Major donors who have contributed between $25,000 and $99,999.
This capital campaign includes $31,245,000 contributed by the city of Little Rock from a hotel tax revenue bond.
Currently, the Arkansas Museum of Fine Arts is slated to open in 2022.