The Arkansas Art Museum Smackdown

arkansas museum of fine arts
The Arkansas Art Museum SmackdownTimothy Hursley
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While Little Rock is Arkansas’s capital, it hasn’t always been its most visible cultural hub. But when the 86-year-old Arkansas Museum of Fine Arts reopens on April 22 after a $155 million renovation, it will be (ahem) crystal clear that there’s more than one arts destination in the Natural State.

To create the 133,000-square-foot space, which houses a collection of international art dating back to the 1400s, architect Jeanne Gang overhauled and connected nine existing buildings, creating new galleries, an art school, a theater, and more. “We wanted to work with the unique spirit and existing infrastructure to create something that unfolds new possibilities,” Gang says. What goes on inside is exciting as well. “I hope it stretches people,” says board member Harriet Stephens. “You may see something you don’t understand or don’t like, but I want it to make you think.” Your move, Bentonville.

Museum Renovation by the Numbers:

133,000 Square Feet

The architecture firm Studio Gang renovated and connected nine ­existing buildings and also opened the campus to neighboring ­MacArthur Park.

1,277 (or so) Days of Construction

Groundbreaking on the new AMFA took place in October 2019. Nearly three and a half years ­later, the museum will open with such exhibitions as “Together” and “Sun Xun: Tears of Chiwen.”

$155M Raised

The museum raised $31 million from a city hotel tax and also had generous individual donors. One couple reportedly said, “We can’t do $25 million. How about $45 million instead?”

This story appears in the April 2023 issue of Town & Country. SUBSCRIBE NOW

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