By Kim Meyer-Webb | Photography by Dero Sanford | Shot on location at the Arkansas Arts Center – special thanks to Erik Swindle
Situated in the heart of MacArthur Park, the Arkansas Arts Center construction project is impressive as work remains steady + constant. Plans to welcome guests to the reimagined Arts Center in 2022 include showcasing its rich history and introducing new amenities that strengthen the community. East Harding Construction President & CEO Van Tilbury is well-positioned to take the lead as president of the Arkansas Arts Center Board of Trustees next month. He believes in the transformative power of art to enrich the lives of all Arkansans and stimulate the economic prosperity of the Capital City.
Since its inception, the Arkansas Arts Center has been a place to celebrate and foster the arts. What began at the turn of century as the Fine Arts Club of Arkansas continues to evolve into a reflection of the socioeconomic diversity of Arkansas. “We believe in community first and ensuring the Arts Center is a welcoming and inspiring place to see, make and enjoy art,” explains Arkansas Arts Center Executive Director Victoria Ramirez. “This means reaching and engaging a broad audience, from the young to the young at heart. Our board of trustees provides a vital link to the needs and interest of our community. Van will be integral in providing guidance and advice.”
At the grand opening more than 50 years ago, the vision of the Arkansas Arts Center – as a beacon for arts education as well as a catalyst for cultural and economic development – was established and remains unwavering. Van recognizes this intrinsic value and potential. “Quality of place is critical to the economic vitality of Central Arkansas. As a member of the Little Rock Regional Chamber Executive Committee, we realize we cannot retain and grow existing businesses or recruit and grow new businesses if we do not provide quality of place through arts and culture,” Van explains. “As a businessman dependent on an economy that is always growing and renovating its built environment, the Arts Center strengthens our quality of place and economic impact through tourism, business retention and business recruitment.”
The façade of the original 1937 Fine Arts Building is central to the reimagined structure, which will prominently feature the permanent Arkansas Arts Center 14,000 piece collection. The 137,000 square-foot complex will include performance halls and museum school as well as a “cultural living room” for gathering space and revitalization of the MacArthur Park campus. Campaign for Our Cultural Future Chairmen Harriet and Warren Stephens continue their steadfast commitment to the Arts Center and its sustainability for future generations. Victoria notes, “We are so grateful for their support and dedication toward this $128 million capital campaign. We simply wouldn’t be where we are today without their leadership.” Van adds, “The City of Little Rock is also a lead investor in the project and now we need every member to make an aspirational investment in the new Arkansas Arts Center. We are also implementing our plan to reach every community and every demographic to demonstrate that their investment is important and our Arts Center is inclusive. This will continue the legacy of education, instruction and inspiration for all Arkansans.”