Despite the COVID-19 pandemic, the $142 million renovation of the Arkansas Museum of Fine Arts remains on schedule, and the museum will open in May 2022, officials said Thursday.
The renovation and expansion of what was formerly called the Arkansas Arts Center began in 2016. More than 50 Arkansas companies have been involved in the project, with more than 200 workers on the site every day.
“From the outset, the goal of this project has been to make accessible the very best of art and architecture to Little Rock,” AMFA Executive Director Victoria Ramirez said in a news release. “In working with Studio Gang and SCAPE, we are realizing the most contemporary ideas about museums and public spaces and creating a new paradigm that is both art and people-centric.”
Previously: The Museum of Fine Arts, a building transformed.
Ramirez and other project leaders led a tour of the construction site on Thursday. Joining the tour was project architect Jeanne Gang, founder of Studio Gang of Chicago; representatives of Polk Stanley Wilcox Architects of Little Rock; Kate Orff, founder of SCAPE Landscape Architecture of New York, which is overseeing 11 acres of landscaping; and Warren Stephens, CEO of Stephens Inc. of Little Rock, and his wife, Harriet.
The Stephens are co-chairs of the fundraising campaign for the renovation. The goal for the campaign, called "Reimagining the Arkansas Arts Center: Campaign for our Cultural Future," grew to $142 million on Jan. 26 and had already raised at least $135.9 million.
Highlights of Thursday’s tour included the 133,000-SF building’s completed signature roof — a flowing, folded-plate concrete structure "blossoming out to the north and south." The tour also stopped in its new galleries, which Rameriz said will allow the museum to display more of its 14,000-item collection.
One feature of the galleries is a large wall for exhibits that faces windows overlooking the park and surrounding neighborhood — an enticement to people walking by outside. There’s also the museum’s social gathering space — a "cultural living room" — designed to hold social events and other programming. The museum’s centrally-located stairs are reminiscent of M.C. Escher's "Relativity." And there’s space for a new restaurant, which offers outside views through big windows.
Visitors can also enjoy the view, from several spaces, of an indoor courtyard and the 1937 art deco facade of the original Museum of Fine Arts that will serve as an entrance to the museum.