The brand new Arkansas Museum of Fine Arts will reopen to the public on Saturday, but the media got a tour of the building and campus in Little Rock’s MacArthur Park today.
The space has been closed since July 2019 and has undergone a massive renovation and expansion. The structure, designed by Chicago-based architectural firm Studio Gang, has grown to 133,000 square feet and features nine galleries, a theater, a “cultural living room,” studio classrooms, a space called the “Glass Box,” an art reference library and a restaurant.
The building has a distinctive, pleated roof that welcomes visitors at its south and north entrances, the latter of which also retains the building’s original 1937 art deco facade. Inside, light flows in through large windows. Outside, the 11-acre campus, carefully designed by New York-based SCAPE Landscape firm, is more accessible and open to visitors.
Eight of the nine galleries are upstairs, as is the “cultural living room,” a glass-enclosed area above the north entrance that is furnished with comfortable couches and chairs where visitors can relax. Hanging from the ceiling are slats of birch that follow the pleated shape of the roof to add a softness to the design that winds through the spine of the museum.
The renovation and expansion is financed by private and public funds. In 2016, Little Rock voters approved a bond paid for by hotel taxes to fund about $31 million of the project. On Tuesday Warren Stephens, chairman of the museum’s foundation and co-chairman of its capital campaign, announced that the drive had raised more than $160 million to date.
“It’s been gratifying and humbling to see the community come together and show so much enthusiasm and support for the Arkansas Museum of Fine Arts,” he said.
8:07 a.m. | Arkansas Museum of Fine Arts in Little Rock to reopen Saturday
The Arkansas Museum of Fine Arts in Little Rock will reopen on Saturday after closing in 2019.
The museum, located at 501 E. Ninth St. in downtown Little Rock, will hold a grand opening from noon to 8 p.m. on Saturday after a media preview that will be held around 9:30 a.m. on Tuesday.
All tickets to the grand opening have been reserved, according to the Arkansas Museum of Fine Arts’ website.
Starting on May 2 the regular museum hours will be from 10 a.m. until 8 p.m. on Tuesday through Saturday, noon until 5 p.m. on Sunday and on Monday the museum will be closed, the website said.
While admission is always free, timed-entry tickets are “highly recommended” to guarantee admission, the website said. Tickets can be reserved online: https://my.arkmfa.org/8811/
Expansion began back in 2016, after residents in Little Rock voted and approved a 2% hotel tax to benefit the museum when it was still known as the Arkansas Arts Center. The taxes funded about $31.3 million of the museum's renovation.
To add to the city’s contribution, a “special fundraising campaign” was created to help create the new Museum of Fine Arts. As of September of last year, the private fundraising campaign had raised $150.4 million toward a goal of $155 million for the new 133,000-square-foot museum.
The campaign “Reimagining the Arkansas Museum of Fine Arts” supported the construction of the new museum, while “strengthening the critical funding needed for transition, opening, and future operations,” the website said.
The new building was designed by Chicago-based architectural firm Studio Gang in collaboration with Little Rock-based Polk Stanley Wilcox. Construction was led by Nabholz, Pepper and Doyne of Little Rock. Landscaping of the 11-acre campus was done by SCAPE Landscape Architecture DPC of New York City.
— Information for this article was contributed by Sean Clancy of the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette.