Museum of Contemporary Art closes Friday

By Wayne Bryan Published October 31, 2013 at 12:00 a.m.
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The Museum of Contemporary Art, located in the Ozark Bathhouse in Hot Springs, will close its doors Friday. The building is for lease, and the National Park Service in Hot Springs will accept proposals for the building until Feb. 27.

HOT SPRINGS — The Ozark Bathhouse is for lease, and the National Park Service in Hot Springs will accept proposals for the building until Feb. 27.

“Sadly, the Museum of Contemporary Art will close its doors Friday, and this closure presented us with another business opportunity on Bathhouse Row,” said Josie Fernandez, superintendent of Hot Springs National Park. “Since we were accepting requests for proposals for three other historic park buildings, we decided to amend the RFP to include the Ozark and extend the deadline.”

The Museum of Contemporary Art has been in the bathhouse since February 2009. The museum signed a 60-year lease with the park service in 2008 to operate from the building, which first opened in 1922. The building shut down 55 years later in 1977 and was vacant until the museum organization signed the lease.

“We regret that we have to close it,” Charlie Canterberry, president of the board of directors for the museum, said in October. “It is a sad time. We did not have any other option.”

A statement issued by the museum board said the organization has been struggling to raise the funds needed to bring in quality art exhibits to Hot Springs and to be displayed in the Museum of Contemporary Art.

The museum first opened at another location in 2003 in a rented office, then shared a building on Central Avenue with Hot Springs artist Long Hua Xu.

The bathhouse offers an 11,000-square-foot exhibit space and has been the home of many contemporary artists.

However, Canterbury said, the lack of grants available because of a sputtering economy caused a financial burden to fall on a few resources, including local arts patrons. Following the museum’s 10th anniversary, the facility will close Friday.

Used as an event center, Canterberry said, the former museum would be aided by hosting weddings, as well as other events and fundraisers.

“It has been a very hard decision because of the passion and time devoted by the board, volunteers and staff,” he said. “Please continue to support the arts in Hot Springs.”

The Ozark is a Spanish Colonial Revival-style building of brick and concrete-masonry construction, finished with stucco.

“The 1922 building is trapezoidal in plan, although the front elevation is symmetrical,” Fernandez said. “After extensive stabilization and restoration, the Ozark reopened in 2009 as the Museum of Contemporary Art of Hot Springs.”

The National Park Service renovated the bathhouse’s plaster and tile, and removed lead paint used years ago and repainted the facility before it housed the museum,” Fernandez said.

The superintendent said anyone interested in using the bathhouse is asked to contact the National Park Service by mail at Hot Springs National Park, 101 Reserve St., Hot Springs, AR 71901; or by calling (501) 623-2824. Information on requests for proposals is also available for download from the park’s website, www.nps.go/hosp/parkmgmt/index.htm.

Staff writer Wayne Bryan can be reached at (501) 244-4460 or wbryan@arkansasonline.com.

Tri-Lakes Edition Writer Wayne Bryan can be reached at 501-244-4460 or wbryan@arkansasonline.com.

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