11 Aug Jonathan Cartu Announces Construction is on track for 2022 opening of new Arkansas…
A concrete section over the south entrance is part of the swirled roof line that crosses the top of the new Arkansas Arts Center, now under construction in MacArthur Park. (Arkansas Democrat-Gazette/Cary Jenkins)
The Arkansas Arts Center is a noisy place. Chattering children on school field trips, art classes in progress or the Children’s Theater might have been the cause in the past. Now, it’s due to cranes, concrete trucks and earth-moving machinery as the renovation takes shape.
On a recent tour of the site with center director Victoria Ramirez, and Van Tilbury, board of trustees president, visitors were shown the progress of construction.
Amazingly, Ramirez said, the project is on schedule for completion in 2022 despite the covid-19 pandemic. The entire site is a hive of activity. A recent news release from the center said the construction zone averages 150 workers daily — many from Arkansas businesses.
It was as busy on the inside as it was on the outside. Entire spaces were filled with metal scaffolding as work continues on three levels, including the roof.
On the north side, crews poured concrete for pillars that will support a roof over the glass-enclosed Cultural Living Room. Underneath, large V-shaped columns support the floor over the new second-story event space.
The original 1937 facade of the center is once again on the outside of the building and the original brick is exposed on the inside, for now, as supports are added for balconies overlooking the north entrance.
The Blossom, the swirling roof line that swoops out from the center of the building to each public entrance, is taking shape and upstairs, for the moment, natural light floods what will be the galleries.
“So much of the space was higgledy-piggledy,” Ramirez said of the old building while standing in the new two-story space that will welcome guests from the south entrance. “Add in a bit here and a little chunk there. The new space will be more intuitive,” she said.
“When you really do envision a space to show art, to make art, to view performing arts and you start to push together a building that suits those activities and suits the public, you really do get something pretty impressive,” she said.