Art and science center to open in Calico Rock

By Kayla Baugh Published September 10, 2017 at 12:00 a.m.
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Volunteers Wade Moser, left, and Wayne Wood hang pictures at the new Tom Tomlinson Art and Science Center in Calico Rock. The center is scheduled to open Oct. 5.

— Science exhibits, art and educational programs are making their way into the community of Calico Rock.

The Tom Tomlinson Art and Science Center, scheduled to open Oct. 5, is at 103 Main St., across the street from the Calico Rock Museum.

Gloria Sanders, executive director of the Calico Rock Museum and Visitor Center, said the three-story, 3,200-square-foot center is necessary because of lack of space in the museum itself.

“We feel that science is a critical part of education, and we needed to move to another building to be able to expand,” she said.

The art collection currently housed in the museum will be moved into the new center for display, she said.

Sanders said the center will be named in memory of her son, Tommy Tomlinson, who died in 2011.

According to a press release from the Calico Rock Museum, the building was formerly Tomlinson’s restaurant, Don Quixote’s Fine Dining, where Tomlinson was the chef.

“He was active and well-liked in the community,” she said.

Steven Mitchell, chairman of the museum board of trustees, said the art gallery will feature a variety of artists at the local, regional, state and national levels.

“Works will include an artist’s proof of the lithograph titled The Youth, by Alice Neel, a nationally acclaimed artist. Artists featured also include Linda Palmer Williams, Andrew Blanchard, Guy W. Bell, Dale Chihuly and Robert Redbird. All of these artists, many who are Arkansas artists, have achieved national acclaim, and many have been featured with shows or are exhibited in the Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art [in Bentonville] and the Smithsonian Institution,” he said.

Mitchell said the main floor of the center will feature an art gallery, shopping, restrooms and classroom space.

The retail store, Brushstrokes, will have jewelry, craft kits, art, educational toys and tourist items for sale, he said.

The Windgate Studio and Lab, which was funded by a grant from the Windgate Foundation, will provide learning space for science and art classes, Mitchell said.

“The loft will include gallery space for special shows, a place for artists in residence, a board room and archival space,” he said.

Mitchell said the ground floor will feature a science center, including a crime-lab exhibit that will allow visitors to learn the science behind discovering who committed a crime.

“It’s a complete scene that includes a mock-up of a house with evidence and stations where visitors explore DNA, fingerprinting and other technology used to solve crimes. The center will also include a dinosaur station that will feature a dinosaur wall model and a dig site where visitors can dig for bones in a mock archaeological dig,” he explained.

Sanders said the center will offer exhibits on a variety of subjects to explore over time, and one exhibit, titled The Beat Goes On, will teach visitors about the heart and how the circulatory system works.

Exhibits are expensive, she said, and their cost will have a lot to do with what goes into the center.

The art and science center was funded by grants and donations, she said, and the museum is a nonprofit organization.

“We work strictly on what grants and donations we can get,” she said.

Mitchell said The Windgate Foundation provided the funds necessary to finalize the project, and it couldn’t have been finished without the foundation’s support.

Sanders said the center is unique — the only one of its kind in the area.

“I think the center will have a large impact on the community and bring more tourists into Calico Rock. Schools will be able to utilize the educational programs that we have, like they’ve done with history across the street at the museum,” she said.

The Calico Rock Museum Foundation is part of the Discovery Network, she said, a statewide program of the Museum of Discovery in Little Rock.

Mitchell said the new center will allow people living in their small community an opportunity to experience things they’d normally have to travel to a large city to experience.

“It will bring science to life,” he said.

“Our admission is always free, and our experiences are world-class.”

Staff writer Kayla Baugh can be reached at (501) 244-4307 or

None Kayla Baugh can be reached at 501-244-4307 or

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