Arkansas Arts Center

Executive Director, Little Rock, AR



The Arkansas Arts Center is an active partner in the educational, economic, and cultural life of a diverse community; inviting discovery, creativity, and learning through engagement with the visual and performing arts.


The Arkansas Arts Center (the Arts Center) will 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, the Arts Center will be a vital part of the fabric of the city, activate MacArthur Park, and be a key player in the ongoing vigor of downtown Little Rock. The Arts Center will be the regional leader in the study, display, and preservation of drawings and contemporary craft and will lead the state in displaying International artists and diverse voices that effectively reflect a broad array of cultural backgrounds and viewpoints.

Through the visual and performing arts, the Arts Center will engage its audience in a broader dialogue with the world, society, and history. The Arts Center will be a key resource and driver for arts education in the state through targeted programs, collaborations, and outreach. The Museum School and the Children's Theatre will be the epicenter for creative expression through artmaking and performance for students of all ages, skill levels, needs, and backgrounds.


Located in Little Rock's historic MacArthur Park, the Arkansas Arts Center was established in 1961 as a significant expansion in program and facilities of the 1937 Museum of Fine Arts. The Arts Center is comprised of a world-class international art collection, a well-subscribed museum school, and a renowned children's theatre. The museum features a broad range of exhibitions from its own collections, special exhibitions, and annual juried shows, including the 60th Delta Exhibition of contemporary work by artists from Arkansas and bordering states, and the Young Arkansas Artists exhibition. The Arts Center offers several auxiliary membership groups which cater to the interests of its patrons including: Friends of Contemporary Craft, Contemporaries, The Collectors Group, Children's Theatre Guild, and the Fine Arts Club of Arkansas.

In fall 2019, the Arts Center will embark on a transformational renovation and expansion of the its current facility. Designed by Jeanne Gang of Studio Gang and landscape architect Kate Orff of SCAPE, the project is set to be completed in early 2022. For more information on the conceptual plan, please see https://www.arkansasartscenter.org/concept.

The resulting facility will allow the Arts Center to better serve and grow its members and audience, increase and improve its educational offerings, provide much needed storage and care for a growing collection, and create a catalyst for energizing historic MacArthur Park and downtown Little Rock.

In order to allow construction to begin, the Arts Center is slated to move to a temporary location in August. This space is approximately three miles from the Arts Center's MacArthur Park site. It will include studio space for a full program of Museum School classes, design and rehearsal space for the Children's Theatre, and additional flexible spaces for offices, retail, facilities storage, and educational programs.

Works from the Arkansas Arts Center collection will travel to other institutions across the country and across Arkansas while the MacArthur Park building is under construction. Select objects from the contemporary craft collection will also be on view at 15 Central Arkansas Library System locations over the next few years.


The Arkansas Arts Center Foundation collection combines a systematic representation of Old Master works with a larger group of 20th-century and contemporary drawings. The drawing collection is also known for its recognition of emerging artists. In addition, the Arts Center collection includes paintings and works of art that provide a broader exposure to the arts for a statewide and regional audience, for students, and for other visitors. Among the other areas of collecting for which the institution is known, are its contemporary crafts encompassing clay, fiber, glass, metal, and wood, and Impressionist and early modern paintings and drawings.

The Arts Center began its focus on collecting drawings with the purchase in 1971 of drawings by Willem de Kooning, Morris Graves, and Andrew Wyeth. From this inspired beginning, the Arts Center now has over 5,300 drawings. Along the way, the Arts Center has also collected contemporary objects in craft media: ceramic, wood, fiber, glass, and metal. The Arts Center collection has over 1,000 contemporary objects. These two collections work beautifully together. The three-dimensional objects warm up the galleries and lead to a better understanding of the surfaces and abstract elements of the drawings.

The drawing collection is primarily 20th century and contemporary but also includes about 125 Old Master drawings the earliest, a German silverpoint-and-ink drawing dated circa 1465. Special collections of drawings include 133 works on paper by French Neo-Impressionist Paul Signac received as a gift from James T. Dyke the largest collection of Signac drawings and watercolors outside of France; 150 Post-Minimalist drawings by various artists from the Wynn and Sally Kramarsky Collection in New York; 1,300 ink drawings by Peter Takal; 79 drawings by New York painter Will Barnet; 34 watercolors and drawings by Arthur Dove; 116 watercolors by Robert Andrew Parker done from 1970 to 1971 to illustrate the WWII poems of British poet Keith Douglas for an antiwar experimental film titled How to Kill; and about 100 drawings and objects received as gifts through the joint initiative of the Trustees of the Dorothy and Herbert Vogel Collection and the National Gallery of Art.

Recently added to the collection was a gift of 297 drawings and watercolors by John Marin, donated by his daughter-in-law Norma Marin. The generous gift positions the Arts Center as the second-largest repository of Marin works in the world. Eighty-one pieces from this exceptional collection are featured in the recent exhibition "Becoming John Marin: Modernist at Work."

The Arts Center is governed by a 32-member Board of Trustees. The Foundation, a nine-member Board of Directors, holds title to the collection and manages the Art Center's endowment, currently valued at $32 million. The Executive Director and the Chairman and President of the Board of Trustees sit as ex-officio members of the Foundation. The Arts Center has an annual budget of approximately $7 million, which will likely grow when the building reopens, and is managed by a staff of 52 full-time and 51 part-time employees.


Reporting to the Board, the Executive Director will provide leadership, creativity, management, and direction for the Arkansas Arts Center and pursue a clear and impactful vision for the organization going forward. The Executive Director will drive excellence in curatorial, educational, and programmatic endeavors while ensuring the alignment of financial resources and operational priorities, near and long term.

In partnership with the museum's senior management team, and with the Artistic Director of the Children's Theatre, the Executive Director will continue to enhance the Arts Center's relevance across the state and beyond, andthrough dynamic thought-provoking exhibitions, educational activities, programs, and outreach, position it as a vibrant institution of distinction. The Executive Director will serve as a primary spokesperson and chief fundraiser for the institution, playing a principal role in the cultivation of major donors and development of key relationships with the Arts Center's individual, corporate, government, and foundation supporters.

Additionally, the Executive Director will galvanize staff and build active participation and support from the community, including local artists and leaders of other Little Rock-based cultural institutions. They will network with business and community leaders, and city- and state-elected officials, keeping in mind that the institution is a statewide resource and the entire community is an important audience.


The Executive Director will capitalize on the legacy and potential of the institution and give priority to the following:

  • Take ownership of and lead the Arts Center through the renovation and transition into its new home; build on the momentum of the expansion/renovation in order to generate interest and support for the ongoing campaign and move it to completion;

  • Articulate and ensure that the institution's goals and objectives align with its current strategic plan; ensure institutional clarity around the plan's key initiatives: review the Arts Center's organizational structure and adjust accordingly to the new realities of its expanded offerings;

  • While operating the Arts Center from its temporary location, oversee and ensure that museum school classes, exhibitions, theatre productions, and other programs continue to serve the public, and that activities, locally and around the state, contribute to the continued relevance of the Arts Center throughout this interim period;

  • Building upon existing renovation efforts and timetables, present and execute a coherent strategy for the grand reopening of the Arts Center's new space in 2022; with the curatorial team, develop compelling exhibits and experiences that will draw the public into and highlight the strengths of the museum's renovated galleries;

  • Foster a strong working relationship with the Arts Center's Board and the Foundation; understand their strengths and capabilities and bring forth their best ideas, efforts, resources, and contacts; ensure that the Board and Foundation are provided with timely and clear information;

  • Proactively cultivate and build strong relationships with high-potential donors and collectors; develop compelling ways to market and promote the Arts Center's activities to its member base and affinity groups, and increase the appeal of the institution to new members;

  • Take a lead in planning, marketing, and promoting special events and exhibitions associated with and following the temporary closure and relocation and, ultimately, the renovation and expansion of the Arts Center's new facilities;

  • Ensure the continued vibrancy and engagement with the Arts Center's auxiliary membership groups; in particular, reinvigorate the Collectors Group, Collectors Show, and other related member activities;

  • Hire, manage, motivate, and evaluate staff; continue to build uponand nurture an aspirational culture within the organization reflected in its mission and vision statements and core values; listen to staff and harness their energy and ideas.


The ideal candidate will have a deep interest in and a passion for the current and future role of the Arkansas Arts Center, and should have or be the following:

  • An innovative and inspiring leader able to translate vision into workable actions and priorities; a team builder with strong business and management skills and a record of achievement in bringing about change in exciting and creative ways;

  • Financial acumen commensurate with running a civic institution the size and stature of the Arts Center; proven project management skills that transfer to the completion of the major renovation project setting and managing expectations and dealing with vagaries of the process are a real plus;

  • Proven track record as a fundraiser; successful results in identifying, cultivating, and soliciting major donors, foundation grants, government support, and corporate sponsorships, and generating other sources of revenue; experience in the execution of a successful capital campaign is desirable;

  • An understanding of and commitment to the Arts Center's collection; knowledge of the art world and its key players; an ability to translate this into meaningful collaborations and exhibitions for the institution that speak to the broad interests of a diverse audience;

  • A commitment to educational outreach, networking, and thought-provoking programming that attracts and engages local, regional, and statewide constituents; an appreciation of and willingness to provide oversight and direction to the Museum School and Children's Theatre;

  • Conversant in the use of technology and social media in promoting an institution, reaching audiences, and creating innovative and engaging exhibitions and programs;

  • Superior communication, writing, and presentation skills that are effective with a range of audiences, including volunteers, staff, business and community leaders, the media, and the general public;

  • A master's degree in art history or an advanced degree in an appropriate discipline is preferred;

The Executive Director should also be or have:

  • An innovative, inspiring leader and team builder; committed to the mission of the Arts Center, with strong business and management skills and a record of achievement in bringing about change in exciting and creative ways; able to think out of the box and translate vision into workable actions and priorities;

  • Willingness to actively participate in the cultural and civic life of Little Rock; willing to engage and be highly visible within the community; comfortable being the public face and advocate for the institution; an ability to pick up on cultural cues is a plus;

  • Highly personable, charismatic, and energetic; able to generate enthusiasm, motivate and direct others; persuasive and resourceful; mature, with good judgment and a sense of humor in order to maintain perspective and balance; a consensus builder who will quickly gain the respect and credibility of all key constituencies.

Applications and nominations are requested to be submitted to the attention of Mark Tarnacki at ArtsCenter@PhillipsOppenheim.com.