LITTLE ROCK, Ark. – The new Arkansas Museum of Fine Arts is still over a year from reopening, but the progress outside the building is noticeable.
Museum Executive Director Victoria Ramirez said there was one main focus the museum wanted to have – being more welcoming.
“It’s so important that when people come to the new museum, they feel welcomed, they feel comfortable, they know how to do the things they want to do and they can come in and just enjoy the art,” Ramirez explained.
The gallery area has 15 percent more wall space than the old setup, which will allow for more of the more than 14,000 piece collection owned by the museum to be put on display. It will also allow for bigger traveling exhibits to visit.
The museum will have a common area called the “Cultural Living Room” where people can come and simply hang out. There will be a coffee shop and a wet bar available for events.
The Wingate School of Art will have classes for all ages and abilities. There are separate rooms for things like woodworking, ceramics, painting, drawing, all different forms of art.
Do not let the ‘school’ moniker fool you.
“Currently we’re more weekend warrior. We like the idea that art can be, art-making can be something that people want to do in their leisure time, they don’t necessarily have to get a grade for it,” Ramirez said.
A restaurant will also be put in at the southern part of the building and will have indoor and outdoor dining options. The outdoor area will blend in seamlessly with the surrounding MacArthur Park.
The museum will be bringing in native plants and trees to enhance the 14-acre outdoor area of the museum and MacArthur Park.
The old theatre was not originally going to be changed but according to museum officials, the generosity of their donors allowed them to install new acoustic-friendly materials on the walls and ceilings and also install state-of-the-art audio and visual equipment.
The $142 million capital campaign also allowed the museum to keep a room behind the theatre stage they are referring to as the ‘Glass Box’. It will be open for rehearsals and patrons will be able to rent it out for events as well.
Officials believe the museum will have a huge impact not just on Arkansas but in the region once it is back up and running.
“It certainly isn’t in competition with Crystal Bridges but, yes, it’s going to have a very significant impact and I don’t think just for Central Arkansas, I think the region is going to be the beneficiary.” board member Warren Stephens said.
Our Jay Bir received an exclusive tour of the museum. Click below to watch.