The Arkansas Arts Center officially adopted a new name Monday, becoming the Arkansas Museum of Fine Arts.
The Arts Center originally opened in 1937 in downtown Little Rock under the name Museum of Fine Arts. In 1960, it became the Arkansas Arts Center. Standing amidst the ongoing renovations, Van Tilbury, president of the board of trustees, said the new name was chosen to honor the organization’s history, its ties to the state, and its intention to become an arts destination for visitors to the city.
Little Rock Mayor Frank Scott, Jr. said the name reflects the institution’s desire to be recognized as a peer among other regional museums in Dallas, Mississippi, and Bentonville’s Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art.
“We all are reshaping the South, being the new South,” Scott said. “And this is yet another catalyst for the new South on how we focus on arts, entertainment, education, and economic diversity.”
The museum began renovations in 2019. Little Rock voters agreed to fund a portion of the improvements by approving a hotel tax increase in 2016. The tax revenue bond has generated $31,245,000. Harriet Stephens, museum board member and capital campaign co-chair said the original fundraising goal of $128 million dollars has been surpassed.
As part of Monday’s ceremony on the museum grounds, Stephens said, “We are extremely pleased to share our campaign total to date. With all pledges, as of today, the capital campaign has now raised $135, 944, 426.”
A new goal of $142 million was announced along with promises of expanded gallery space and other improvements. The museum’s school will also have a new name.
The Windgate Foundation Art School will continue offering art classes in variety of mediums and be home to an enclosed art lawn for outdoor classes and events. The museum and the art classes have operated out of a renovated grocery store in Little Rock’s Riverdale district since renovations began. Arts Center Executive Director Dr. Victoria Ramirez said construction is over halfway complete on the new facility.
“We really cannot wait to welcome you to the new Arkansas Museum of Fine Arts in 2022,” Ramirez said.
She assumed leadership of the organization in late 2019.