The Arkansas Museum of Fine Arts offers an inspiring array of visual, performing arts, and educational experiences. The Museum is committed to creating an inclusive cultural space for the community to engage with diverse artistic perspectives through the AMFA Foundation’s 14,000 object permanent collection, compelling temporary exhibitions, lively theatre, and enriching courses.
Reimagining the Arkansas Museum of Fine Arts is a special fundraising campaign that will make our vision for the new Museum possible. Discover how you can join the campaign and make an impact today.
The Arkansas Museum of Fine Arts is a driving force for artistic innovation – and one of the most vibrant and influential museums in the region. Now, the Arkansas Museum of Fine Arts is leading a cultural shift.
After years of ambitious planning, AMFA has launched a transformative building project to renovate, expand, and fully activate the all-new MacArthur Park campus in downtown Little Rock.
Through the creative use of light, space, and form, the new Arkansas Museum of Fine Arts will be elevated into a work of beauty and inspiration. The new museum will be a significant architectural landmark for the region, setting a new standard for what museum buildings can accomplish.
Designed by renowned architecture practice Studio Gang, the museum’s distinctive new architectural identity signifies AMFA’s role as a leading arts institution and celebrates its legacy. The design preserves and features the building’s historic elements, and applies elegant architectural solutions to facilitate inspiring encounters with the arts.
The building’s key feature is a pleated roof that blossoms to the north and south. Prominent glass-enclosed spaces at each entrance welcome visitors into the building, from MacArthur Park at the south and downtown Little Rock at the north. The north courtyard entrance features a nod to the past in the renewed 1937 façade of the Museum of Fine Arts. On the south side of the building, the innovative roofline creates a luminous grand atrium that showcases the progression of the space and connects the museum’s various programming areas.
The project brings a new level of prestige to Arkansas’s architecture community. The new Arkansas Museum of Fine Arts’ architecture has already been recognized as a leader among its peers and was honored with a Best of Design award from The Architect’s Newspaper in 2019.
Studio Gang’s award-winning body of work includes cultural institutions across the Americas and Europe, including the Richard Gilder Center for Science, Education, and Innovation at the American Museum of Natural History in New York, the California College of the Arts in San Francisco, and the Writers Theater in Glencoe, Ill. Studio Gang is led by architect Jeanne Gang, a MacArthur Fellow and a Professor in Practice at the Harvard Graduate School of Design. The Arkansas Museum of Fine Arts is Studio Gang’s first project in Arkansas. Studio Gang is working in collaboration with Little Rock-based associate architecture firm Polk Stanley Wilcox to realize the new Arkansas Museum of Fine Arts. Landscape architecture firm SCAPE is designing 11 acres of MacArthur Park surrounding the Arts Center to foster a deeper connection between the park and downtown Little Rock.
Inspiration for the landscape is drawn from the region’s unique ecologies – including the banks of Fourche Creek, the bluffs of Emerald Park and the agrarian landscapes of the Mississippi Delta. SCAPE’s design for the landscape relies on sustainable, native plantings and incorporates more than 50 different species of perennials, shrubs, native trees, and ornamental grasses. Many of MacArthur Park’s mature trees are preserved in the design and incorporated into a framework of new trees, which, over time, will create a canopy throughout the park to the south and west.
Outside the south entrance of the building, dynamic petal-shaped garden beds mirror the form of the museum’s roof and feature seasonally diverse plantings that grow between stacked slabs of sandstone quarried from the region. The stone slabs route stormwater runoff from the building’s roof into a series of rain gardens planted with native species to attract pollinators and migratory birds.
View from the Crescent Lawn of the Arkansas Museum of Fine Arts’ new Courtyard Entrance. Above, the Cultural Living Room signals the new entrance from Crescent Drive and creates a new courtyard plaza that reveals the Museum’s historic façade. Image courtesy of Studio Gang and SCAPE.
View of the new Park Entrance to the Arkansas Museum of Fine Arts from MacArthur Park. A new restaurant with an outdoor shaded terrace overlooks the park and connects to a new network of walking paths and stormwater-fed gardens designed by SCAPE. Image courtesy of Studio Gang and SCAPE.
View toward the Park Entrance to MacArthur Park from inside the Museum Atrium, which connects AMFA’s new programming areas. Image courtesy of Studio Gang.
Interior view of the Arkansas Museum of Fine Arts where gallery spaces connect with new community gathering spaces such as the Cultural Living Room and the Atrium. State-of-the-art galleries will showcase the AMFA Foundation Collection and house special exhibitions. The Cultural Living Room is a community space for casual gatherings and elevated events. Image courtesy of Studio Gang.
A new entrance to the north invites visitors to re-experience the building’s original 1937 façade through an open-air courtyard before entering the Museum. Image courtesy of Studio Gang.
Entering through the original 1937 facade, guests are welcomed to the Museum’s lobby.
The Cultural Living Room is one of the signature new expansions at the new Museum. This second-floor room has soaring floor-to-ceiling glass walls that overlook the Courtyard Entrance, the Museum’s original 1937 façade, and the newly landscaped Crescent Lawn.
Another signature expansion of the enw Museum is the Glass Box. This sleek, modern interior space offers striking views of MacArthur Park from the adjoining terrace.
Located adjacent to the Park Entrance, AMFA’s full-service restaurant offers indoor and outdoor dining options with beautiful views of the Museum’s landscaped grounds and MacArthur Park.
This aerial view shows how the new Arkansas Museum of Fine Arts creates new pathways and connections to MacArthur Park. The design includes a new restaurant with outdoor shaded seating, walking paths, and a great lawn. Over time, a tree canopy will develop, creating a true “museum in a park.”
The Museum’s history dates back more than 100 years. In 1914, a group of intrepid women formed the Fine Arts Club with a mission to bring the arts to Arkansas.
The Fine Arts Club planted the seeds that were realized when the Museum of Fine Arts opened in downtown Little Rock’s MacArthur Park in 1937. Built by the Works Progress Administration – and featuring a stunning Art Deco façade – the Museum of Fine Arts was the first museum dedicated to the fine arts in the state of Arkansas.
In 1959, as the museum’s art collection and mission continued to grow, the Museum of Fine Arts launched a fundraising campaign to create a statewide center for the arts. Led by Winthrop Rockefeller, who would become the governor of Arkansas in 1967, the campaign emphasized that the institution would serve all of Arkansas – and encouraged Arkansas residents to get involved. Businesses and individuals from all parts of the state made donations – including children who saved nickels and dimes in jars. In 1960, the Little Rock Board of Directors adopted an ordinance officially establishing the Arkansas Arts Center, and the new building – an addition to the 1937 museum – opened in 1963.
Over the next 50 years, as the institution and its mission continued to grow in scale and in scope, the Arkansas Arts Center’s MacArthur Park building underwent seven further expansions to accommodate its growing collection and community. In a 1982 renovation and expansion, the Museum of Fine Arts’ art deco façade was preserved as a feature of the building’s interior galleries.
In 2016, Little Rock voted overwhelmingly in favor of a hotel-tax bond to reimagine the Arkansas Arts Center. With private fundraising more than quadrupling the public contribution to the project, a new Museum, designed by renowned architecture practice Studio Gang and landscape architect SCAPE, was brought to life in MacArthur Park.
With the 1937 Museum of Fine Arts façade once again revealed as the Museum’s entrance, the new Arkansas Museum of Fine Arts continues the legacy born of the Fine Arts Club and Governor Rockefeller to serve the state of Arkansas through unexpected and inspiring encounters with the arts.
1937 Facade: The Museum of Fine Arts and its Art Deco facade opened to the public in 1937.
Rockefeller Campaigning: In 1959, the Museum of Fine Arts launched a fundraising campaign to create a new statewide center for the arts. Led by Winthrop Rockefeller, who would become the governor of Arkansas in 1967, the campaign emphasized that the Arkansas Arts Center would serve all of Arkansas and encouraged Arkansas residents to get involved.
1961 Groundbreaking: The groundbreaking ceremony for the Arkansas Arts Center building project was held on August 20, 1961.
1982 Facade: In a 1982 renovation and expansion, the original Museum of Fine Arts’ façade was preserved as a feature of the building’s interior galleries.
2019 Groundbreaking: On October 1, 2019, a groundbreaking ceremony was held to celebrate the beginning of construction for the new Arkansas Arts Center (now the Arkansas Museum of Fine Arts). Pictured from left to right: AMFA Foundation President Bobby Tucker, Board of Trustees President Merritt Dyke, SCAPE Founder and Design Director Kate Orff, AMFA Executive Director Victoria Ramirez, Studio Gang Founding Principal Jeanne Gang, Capital Campaign Co-Chairs Harriet and Warren Stephens, and Little Rock Mayor Frank Scott, Jr.
The Arkansas Museum of Fine Arts is supported in part by the Arkansas Museum of Fine Arts Foundation; the Arkansas Museum of Fine Arts Board of Trustees; the City of Little Rock; the Little Rock Convention and Visitors Bureau; the City of North Little Rock; and the Arkansas Arts Council, an agency of the Arkansas Department of Parks, Heritage, and Tourism, and the National Endowment for the Arts. Additional general operating support is provided by the Alice L. Walton Foundation; The Brown Foundation, Inc.; and Bank of America.
Special funding made possible by American Rescue Plan Act grants from the National Endowment for the Humanities; National Endowment for the Arts; Institute of Museum and Library Services; and Arkansas Arts Council, an agency of the Arkansas Department of Parks, Heritage, and Tourism, and the National Endowment for the Arts.