Home to an art museum, a studio school, and a children’s theater program, the Arkansas Arts Center fosters appreciation for and hands-on experiences with the arts. The center’s exhibitions focus on drawings, prints, and photographs and the collections include Old Master pieces, as well as 20th Century and Contemporary drawings.
The center is also known for its contemporary crafts collections, which includes clay, fiber, glass, metal, and wood. With over 5,300 drawings and 1,000 contemporary works of art, the Arkansas Arts Center features Impressionist and early Modern paintings and drawings. The Drawing collection also "includes the Figure, Abstraction, Landscape, Narrative, Surrealism, Minority Artists, Women Artists, Self Taught Artists, Drawings by Sculptors, Drawings by Object Makers, and more recently Post Minimalism, and Conceptual Art. The collection is primarily 20th Century & Contemporary but also includes about 125 Old Master Drawings – the earliest, a German silverpoint and ink drawing dated circa 1465" ("History of the Collection"). In addition to its exhibitions, the center also has a library and museum school and hosts several different educational programs.
Officially founded in 1960, the Arkansas Arts Center began
in 1959 with a statewide capital campaign for an arts museum led by Winthrop
Rockefeller. In 1963, the center had
already grown to house 5 galleries, 4 classrooms, an art library, a theater, a
sculpture courtyard, and a school of fine and performing arts. However, in 1968, the school became a
community school and the theater became a children’s theater. The center’s art museum made drawings its
main focus and in 1982, underwent expansions to enlarge the center’s studios
and collection storage and add 2 new galleries.