LITTLE ROCK, Ark. – A long-time fine art institution for Little Rock and Arkansas held a sneak preview ahead of its grand reopening.
On Tuesday, the Arkansas Museum of Fine Arts had a media tour to preview the newly constructed museum and announce galleries endowed and named by Harriet and Warren Stephens.
The museum was founded in 1937 and is the largest cultural institution of its kind in the state. Back in 2019, the museum closed its doors for construction. Architect of the newly constructed building, Jeanne Gang said there were several challenges with the previous museum.
“Over time it had built 8 different additions, structural systems and 8 different mechanical systems and it had gotten very confusing for people as visitors,” Gang said.
Gang said she hopes the newly designed museum reconnects the building with the visitors. Museum officials say the building is now 133,000 square feet and is a 21st-century museum.
Officials also said they raised over $31 million from Little Rock’s hotel tax and with the help of Warren and Harriet Stephens who are the co-chairs of the capital campaign Reimagining the Arkansas Museum, which has raised more than $160 million to date.
“This place turned out even better than I think we hoped it would and that’s because people were generous,” Warren Stephens said. “This is more than a museum and I think over time and it’s already starting to happen you will see more and more people use this building.”
Harriet Stephens said she hopes to share her and her husband’s love of art with others.
“Well, we have been collecting art since we were first married,” Harriet Stephens said.
She also said she wants the museum to bring everyone together.
“I hope they will come in here and go to galleries and enjoy art. I hope they create in the art school. I hope they go to the performing arts theater,” Harriet Stephens said.
Although some things about the museum have changed, Harriet Stephens said the museum being free to the public will remain.
“We have always been free of charge, and this is a place for everyone. This place was brought up by the people and it’s for the people,” Harriet Stephens said.
The museum will showcase over 14,000 works of art. The sold-out grand opening will be on Saturday.