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story.lead_photo.caption On the left, the Wal-Mart Neighborhood Market at 2510 Cantrell Road in Little Rock's Riverdale neighborhood closed in late 2017. On the right, this rendering released Tuesday, Feb. 27, 2018, shows the planned renovations to the Arkansas Arts Center in Little Rock.

The Arkansas Arts Center will headquarter at the former Walmart grocery in Little Rock's Riverdale neighborhood during the $98.8 million project to revamp its downtown museum, officials said Monday.

The deal provides temporary office space for roughly 100 full- and part-time Arts Center workers, studios for art classes and rehearsal space for the children's theater on-tour program.

The 3-mile move is scheduled for September, about a month before crews are scheduled to break ground on the estimated 2½-year project.

Officials for close to a year have been planning how to maintain programs and continue generating money while being displaced. This arrangement isn't the first or last such announcement, but it is the largest, providing a temporary address for staff and roughly 3,000 museum school students.

"This puts us in really good shape with our goal to keep everybody employed, to keep our students and members engaged and to be able to really offer some robust programming while the building is under renovation," interim executive director Laine Harber said.

Lease terms were not disclosed Monday. Harber and a museum spokesman referred questions about the lease to the museum's nonprofit foundation, which signed the deal. Bobby Tucker, the foundation's board chairman, said he would consult with an attorney about whether the agreement will be released. He did not provide details Monday.

The 65,000-square-foot space at 2510 Cantrell Road has been vacant since late 2017, when Walmart Neighborhood Market, the building's previous tenant, closed. Walmart does not own the building, which earlier housed a Harvest Foods grocery.

Little Rock-based Flake and Kelley Commercial listed the property online for lease at $5 per square foot, or $325,000, per year. The newspaper could not determine whether the Arts Center's foundation is paying that price.

The nonprofit Arkansas Arts Center Foundation owns the museum's artwork and controls an endowment from which it issues grants to cover day-to-day operating costs. The museum also collects money from exhibition sponsors, direct private donations and program fees.

The city of Little Rock owns the Arts Center building in MacArthur Park and pays $700,000 each year toward maintaining it. The city board appoints the museum's trustees, who hire the executive director.

Little Rock last year issued $31.2 million in voter-approved, hotel-tax revenue bonds to pay for a little less than one-third of the project's estimated cost. The foundation must raise the additional $60 million-plus it will take to pay for the remainder. Officials have not disclosed a specific fundraising target or how much they've raised so far.

Monday's announcement answered many -- but not all -- lingering questions about day-to-day museum activities during construction.

All museum school classes now have a future location, including those that require larger rooms or heavier equipment, such as woodworking and ceramics. Some may even be expanded thanks to more space, said Rana Edgar, director of education and programs, though those details haven't been finalized.

Arts school classes and workshops will continue at the MacArthur Park site through the summer. The fall term will be the first at the temporary location.

Rehearsal, costume design and set design for the children's theater on-tour program will all be based in Riverdale, officials said.

Some existing off-site storage for costume and sets will also be moved to the Cantrell Road building. Costume designers, who currently work out of the Terry House, will also be united with other children's theater staff, Harber said.

The museum store will also be open in the Riverdale location.

Museum officials in November announced a partnership with the Central Arkansas Library System to display about 150 pieces of artwork from the museum's crafts collection at 15 locations during construction.

Various library branches will also host some of the museum's regular programs, including lunchtime conversations about art, the preschool program Art Start and Art Together, a partnership with Alzheimer's Arkansas. Various museum school classes for two-dimensional media will be hosted at library branches throughout Little Rock and Maumelle.

Still unresolved are the location of the children's theater's "main stage" -- its local season -- and the annual Delta exhibition, which officials have said will continue during construction. Young Arkansas Artists, another popular annual exhibition, will continue through the library system partnership, but the details are still being worked out.

"The focus now shifts to the very extensive and complicated logistics of packing everything ... and moving it," Harber said. "We're still talking to different cultural partners. It's likely those types of partnerships will continue over time, even once we do move out of here."

Regular Arts Center programming will continue at the downtown museum through the summer. "Photographing Frida: Portraits of Frida Kahlo," runs through April 14.

The 61st annual "Delta Exhibition," a showcase of work from artists throughout the Mississippi Delta, runs May 3 through June 30 and will be the final show before construction begins.

Metro on 02/12/2019

Print Headline: Former Walmart grocery site in Little Rock to house Arkansas Arts Center staff during revamp

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