Arkansas Arts Center

Renovation & Expansion
Ongoing
Little Rock, AR
Project Facts
127,000 sf
Team

Ascent
Studio Gang Architects
SCAPE
Thornton Tomasetti
dbHMS
Polk Stanley Wilcox Architects
McClellen Consulting Engineers
Nabholz Construction
Pepper Construction
Doyne Construction

Full Case Study:

The Arkansas Arts Center (AAC) is making capital improvements to better position itself as a beacon for arts education and cultural development in Little Rock, Arkansas, and neighboring states. Ascent is supporting AAC throughout all phases of their capital improvement program.

Client Background

The Arkansas Arts Center is Little Rock’s premier cultural institution, comprised of both an art museum and a center for the visual and performing arts. It is located in downtown Little Rock in the heart of the historic MacArthur Park. In addition to its art collections, AAC supports a highly-regarded Children’s Theater and Museum Art School. Its vision is to be a cultural beacon and a catalyst for advancing arts education, enhancing the quality of life, and promoting civic and cultural development in the community. Through its programs, AAC seeks to be a vital part of the fabric of the city, activate MacArthur Park, and be a key player in the on-going vigor of downtown Little Rock.

About the Project

Since its opening in 1937, the Arkansas Arts Center has enlarged its facility with 8 different expansion projects. With continued growth, these disparate additions began to impact operational efficiencies and wayfinding within the center. In 2013-14, AAC re-evaluated its institutional strategies and goals in a series of staff and stakeholder retreats as well as community sessions throughout the city. Their research confirmed that the condition of the facility was an obstacle to continued accreditation, future growth, and its mission to be a vital part of the fabric of the city. Further study determined that renovation and expansion was the best course of action. A construction budget of $70 million was established.

AAC selected Studio Gang as the design architect and architect of record, supported by Polk Stanley, Wilcox Architects as associate architects, to design this new renovation and expansion. Studio Gang’s design creates vibrant spaces for interaction; improves wayfinding for visitors, reconnects AAC more dynamically to the park; creates more fluid connections between key programs – its collections, the Museum School and its Children’s Theater; reduces operational inefficiencies; and replaces critically outdated maintenance systems. The project creates 127,000 square feet of new and renovated spaces for the facility.

Challenge

Effectively balancing the needs of an aging physical facility with program aspirations for growth is extremely difficult. AAC recognized the need for management expertise with complex cultural projects and added Ascent to their leadership team.

How does Ascent Help?
Ascent helps the Arkansas Arts Center make strategic decisions that preserve timeline and budget for its renovation and expansion, while remaining true to its vision.

Outcomes
The revitalized facility allows the Arkansas Arts Center to better serve and grow its members and audience; increase and improve their educational offerings; provide much needed storage and care for a growing collection; and create a catalyst for energizing MacArthur Park and downtown Little Rock.

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