Arkansas Arts Center set to unveil design; renovation to pass $46M, expand Little Rock museum by third

Posted: February 9, 2018 at 4:30 a.m.

FILE — Patrick Ellis, an employee of the the Arkansas Arts Center in Little Rock, braves cold temperatures to secure a banner in front of the facility in this January 19, 2016 file photo.

The Arkansas Arts Center will unveil renovation plans before the end of the month, the museum's director said Thursday.

Executive Director Todd Herman told the Arts Center's executive committee that the reveal is set for Feb. 27. The public's first look at the $46 million-plus museum overhaul was originally scheduled for October but was postponed so that officials could look into boosting the construction budget to include more wish-list items.

Studio Gang, which has offices in Chicago and New York City, is the project's lead architectural firm. Herman, who has seen the concept design, called it "transformational" and "inspirational."

Generally speaking, arts center officials have said they plan to grow the facility by one-third of its size, upgrade existing spaces and tie together different museum elements introduced during previous expansion and remodeling efforts. They also want to better link the museum with its MacArthur Park surroundings.

Arts center board members will get the first look at an 11 a.m. meeting, followed by Little Rock city directors, museum staff and the nonprofit foundation that supports the Arts Center, according to a tentative schedule Herman described. A one-hour public reception is set for 6:30 p.m.

Studio Gang founding principal Jeanne Gang will lead the presentation, Herman said. Kate Orff, founder and principal of SCAPE Landscape Architecture, the project's landscape architectural firm, will also attend the reveal. Gang and Orff have both been awarded MacArthur Foundation "genius" grants.

Little Rock voters in February 2016 approved the sale of up to $37.5 million in general obligation bonds dedicated to the expansion. A 2 percentage-point increase in the hotel tax will pay down the debt.

Officials previously said up to $50 million in private donations would supplement the bonds to pay both for the project and increase the nonprofit Arkansas Arts Center Foundation's endowment to an appropriate size. The foundation owns the museum's artwork and grants.

Board President Merritt Dyke said updated cost and funding numbers would be presented at the reveal.

Construction is scheduled to begin in fall 2019, a slight setback from the original plan for summer 2019, Herman said.

Metro on 02/09/2018