A rendering of the renovated Arkansas Arts Center. Photo: Studio Gang.

Arkansas Arts Center Reveals Designs for $70 Million Renovation

The Arkansas Arts Center in Little Rock has unveiled design plans for a renovation that would cost $70 million, nearly doubling an earlier estimated budget of $46 million, reports Eric Besson of the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette. Construction for the museum is scheduled to begin in 2019, and the center is expected to open in 2022. The upgrades, which will be led by architecture firm Studio Gang, include new exhibition areas, a children’s theater space, an expanded educational facility, a glass-enclosed walkway, a garden, and the uncovering of the institution’s original facade from 1937. The $24 million budget increase, which does not include additional costs such as architectural or consultants’ fees, will be taken care of by private funds.

Officials originally explained that $50 million in private donations would complement general obligation bonds approved by Little Rock constituents for the expansion of the museum, whose artworks are owned by the nonprofit Arkansas Arts Center Foundation. “It's a more expensive project than we originally thought it would be,” Studio Gang owner Jeanne Gang said. “You discover things. There's a lot to it. There's a lot of, also, ambition for the project to make it visible, to make it really bring the institution up to the next level.”

Between its opening in 1937 and 2001, the museum undertook eight expansions. This overhaul intends to transform the center into a community gathering space, and to better connect the building to neighboring MacArthur Park. Around 127,000 square feet of space will be added or revamped. The enhanced location will feature an edition of British sculptor Henry Moore’s Large Standing Figure: Knife Edge, 1976, which is currently on view in the city’s Union National Plaza.