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Perfecting the Art of Events

4 min read

When hosting an event, the location and event space are almost as important as the purpose behind the meeting.

With an interesting locale, there may be less need for incentives to get people to attend a meeting others have worked hard to put together.

Arkansas, with its two major art museums and the National U.S. Marshals Museum, is in a unique position, feeding into the trend of using artistic venues as meeting spaces.

“Art venues have definitely become more popular for events from business conferences to weddings and receptions,” said Rick Steiner of Steiner Event Group in Jonesboro. “Art venues typically have a much more appealing and creative space than traditional convention centers. From the art itself to the design, an art venue can have a huge impression on the attendees.”

For venues like the U.S. Marshals Museum in Fort Smith and the Arkansas Museum of Fine Arts in Little Rock, a lasting impression on patrons comes easily.

The Rotary Club of Little Rock held its 75th anniversary gala in the newly opened AMFA. (Nelson Chenault)

“Prior to the museum’s opening, we were renting out our main atrium space for events such as weddings, galas, graduation celebrations, etc. Now that the museum is fully operational, we have absolutely seen an increase in inquiries and bookings for not only the atrium but all our event spaces for various events like board meetings, lecture series and workshops,” said Satori Evans, sales manager for the U.S. Marshals Museum. “From the architecture of the building to the 180-degree views of the Arkansas River, most of the décor is already part of the backdrop. There are many things that make us stand out from any other venue, but our biggest is the opportunity for guests to go through the museum experience.”

At AMFA, queries about event spaces have kept staff busy since the facility’s highly anticipated opening in April 2023.

“We have multiple spaces that are perfect for corporate events that can accommodate different size groups and needs,” said Spencer Jansen, deputy director of AMFA. “I would expect corporate bookings to continue to grow as more businesses become members of the museum and want to share the space with their clients and employees.”

Facilities Lend Creativity

Often museums offer gallery tours and other perks with facility rentals.

When planning an event with USMM tour options including a welcome guide, self-guided tour, or collections room access tour with the museum curator are available add-ons.

“We’ve noticed that those who incorporate this into their meeting or conference schedule allow colleagues to have time to connect and build a relationship outside of just work-related topics by enjoying a powerful learning experience,” Evans said.

The AMFA also allows gallery tour add-ons and offers up its museum store as a place to find mementos, allowing products to be customized with the event’s information.

Art installations in the AMFA (Nelson Chenault)

Bentonville’s Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art and the Momentary also offer special perks for those hosting an event in their facilities.

“Each event has a dedicated event manager and production team to guide groups through the entire planning process. Our experienced event specialists assist with all venue-related selections, including customized menus, tables, linens, bar setup and design to rival our art collection. As an added amenity, we also offer private gallery viewings for all indoor space rentals,” said Jessica Gorman, director of sales and events for the two venues.

Using the galleries and other amenities artistic and historical venues offer will up the event hosting game, according to Steiner.

“The galleries can be utilized during breaks and before or after an event. These types of venues allow the attendees to experience a new avenue to appreciate and partake in an event, rather than simply going to an event and not having a lasting impression,” Steiner said.

Art installations in the AMFA (Nelson Chenault)

Not only do these types of spaces offer lasting impressions — they have the ability to foster creativity.

“When juxtaposed against a bland ballroom, the lighting and decor would offer a more energetic environment to foster creativity and learning,” said JoBeth McElhanon of Lilias and Olive in Little Rock.

Artistic venues offer a space for reflection and a sense of camaraderie, which can heighten the positive outcomes of a team event.

“It may be that someone in your finance department is talking with someone in your marketing department about the Diego Rivera painting, or maybe someone from your custodial department is sharing their passion for woodworking with someone in the IT department,” Jansen said. “Art is a connector, and we see that when people engage in our spaces.”

The Museum of Discovery in Little Rock (Sarah Oden)

In the Kid’s Korner

If planning an event with a bit of travel time, it’s not uncommon for people to bring along their families. Luckily, there are ways to inspire creativity in any generation.

The Museum of Discovery in Little Rock has seen an uptick in attendance from families in town for conferences and other group events. The museum also offers exhibit rentals if groups have the hankering for learning.

“Many employees bring their families when they attend conferences so during the day when mom or dad are in meetings or sessions, the rest of the family looks for fun things to do to fill their day,” said Kendall Thornton, chief marketing officer at MoD. “Museum of Discovery has fun and educational experiences for all ages. Whether you’re 3 or 53, you will have fun here.”

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