The Arkansas Museum of Fine Arts in Little Rock on Wednesday announced an opening date of April 22, 2023, as it nears the end of a massive, years-long renovation and redesign.
The museum also announced it had raised $150.4 million in capital for the project, surpassing the latest goal of $142 million. A final fundraising target of $155 million has now been set.
The 133,000-SF project has transformed the 85-year-old museum, formerly known as the Arkansas Arts Center, into a "21st century cultural hub" with more gallery space and more room for events and programming, Executive Director Victoria Ramirez said.
"You will be able to experience everything from the visual arts and theater to film and dance," she said. "And outside on these 11 acres, we'll host the kinds of events and programs we could only dream about before."
Ramirez and staffers moved into their new museum offices last month.
"For me, museum staff, the building committee and the capital campaign committee, the preparations do continue," she said. "But then the day will come and we'll all get to see the museum at its best, which means open, alive and filled with people experiencing art together.
"On that first day, we will invite the entire community to join us. This is their museum. It belongs to the public."
Renovations began in 2016. The museum closed in 2019 when major construction commenced.
The project's initial capital fundraising target was $66 million, which would've covered smaller repairs and upgrades including a new heating and air system. But those improvements would go largely unnoticed by museum visitors. The museum was missing the "wow factor," said Warren Stephens, CEO of Stephens Inc. of Little Rock and chair of the nonprofit foundation that oversees the museum.
So fundraising efforts expanded, attracting dozens of individual donations and major gifts of $31.2 million from the city of Little Rock and another $35 million from the nonprofit Windgate Foundation.
The long list of museum upgrades ranges from a grand corridor that extends to light-filled vestibules to cleaned and restored works in the museum's permanent collection to easier-to-read labels around the building.
"The renovation and redesign of the museum is nothing short of inspiring," said Harriet Stephens, museum foundation member and building committee chair. "And we can't wait to share the finished product with everyone ... The museum is more beautiful, modern and thoughtfully laid out from end to end, and more integrated with MacArthur Park, which was the goal from the outset.
"From the galleries to the restaurants, the performing arts theater to the Windgate Art School, every aspect of the museum has been transformed and elevated."
Additionally, the museum has added more than 800 items to its collection since 2019.
Plans to reopen have been pushed back twice, most recently from May 2022, as the museum added gallery, programming and event space to the project. Ramirez told Arkansas Business in June that supply chain issues also factored into the delays.