Construction on the new Arkansas Arts Center (AAC) facility kicked off this morning (Oct. 1) with a groundbreaking ceremony. The ceremony moves the project closer to its projected grand opening in 2022
In May, the arts institution launched a $128 million capital campaign aimed at reimagining and revitalizing the AAC. The campaign, which has to date raised $122.7 million, will enable the construction and renovation process, as well as provide support for the transition for the opening and fund the center’ endowment.
The capital campaign co-chair Warren Stephens was on hand at the groundbreaking to highlight the importance of the project. He says the revitalization project is critical in ensuring the strength of Arkansas’ cultural life.
“As we gather to commemorate the beginning of construction, today marks a major step forward toward ensuring that the Arkansas Arts Center is an important and flourishing cultural resource now and in the future,” Stephens said. “This is a truly historic day in the life of our city, state and region.”
Designed by Jeanne Gang and her Chicago-based Studio Gang firm, the new center will contain new gathering spaces and will have renovations to the existing MacArthur Park building. A New two-story atrium will connect the art galleries, the Museum School and the Children’s Theatre.
“The design for the reimagined Arkansas Arts Center features new and renovated spaces for gathering and community events to create dynamic connections among the state-of-the-art galleries and exhibitions, renovated Museum School and upgraded Children’s Theatre,” Gang said. “One of our main goals for the project is to allow the architecture to invite interaction, discovery, creativity and learning.”
According to designer Kate Orff with landscape design firm SCAPE, the surrounding environment will be designed to flow with the new facilities. “The site design will provide a seamless transition between the Arkansas Arts Center and MacArthur Park. With native plantings, a tree canopy, walking paths, and a great lawn for events, the landscape design will provide useable and accessible space for visitors and create a true ‘Arts Center in the Park’” she says.
While the construction is now underway, the capital campaign is still seeking addition funds. Campaign organizers are seeking to meet the campaign’s goal, which is approximately $5.3 million short as of Oct. 1. Capital campaign co-chair Harriet Stephens thanked all previous donors and encouraged others to join in the effort.
“We remain incredibly grateful to all of the donors to-date, the City of Little Rock, and the State of Arkansas for saying ‘yes’ to Art, and to the Arkansas Arts Center,” Harriet Stephens says. “The project is grand in scope and impact and will need the participation of many to reach an ambitious goal. As we anticipate the Grand Opening in 2022, we look forward to involving many more people in the campaign.”