City board OKs two cents for Arts Center renovation | Arkansas Blog

City board OKs two cents for Arts Center renovation

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Artist's rough conception of a new Arkansas Arts Center.
  • Artist's rough conception of a new Arkansas Arts Center.

The City Board approved ordinances tonight to levy two new pennies on hotel receipts and a resolution to call a referendum in February to allow the city to spend the new revenues to renovate the Arkansas Arts Center and make improvements to the MacArthur Museum of Arkansas Military History. 

The two cents would support a bond issue of $35 million, which would be matched by private contributions for the Arts Center. Mayor Mark Stodola got the support of the Advertising and Promotion Commission to levy the two new pennies for the Arts Center, whose foundation once considered moving the facility to North Little Rock if it could get city tax dollars there. 

After two lengthy presentations by Arts Center Director Todd Herman and MacArthur Museum Director Stephan McAteer, Sybil Jordan Hampton rose to speak to the Arts Center's history of openness and community outreach. As the former head of the Winthrop Rockefeller Foundation, Hampton knew personally of the Rockefeller family's pride in the Arts Center, which was opened thanks to a capital campaign by the Little Rock Junior League and headed statewide by Gov. Rockefeller. "I know the governor saw this as an institution for all Arkansans," Hampton said. "We have an opportunity to add a jewel in the crown of our city."

Skip Rutherford, dean of the Clinton School of Public Service of the University of Arkansas, said he was asking for the city's help to "take the state's best military museum and make it better" and make the Arts Center into an institution that "makes a statement for the future of Little Rock."

Herman's power point presentation illustrated how it has been added onto piecemeal over the years and enumerated its physical plant needs — from repairing broken seats to increasing storage to bringing the lighting up to standard. Without some serious upgrades, Herman said, the Arts Center, which has the only international art collection in Arkansas, could lose its accreditation and its ability to attract traveling exhibitions and stand as the capital city's first-rate arts and education facility.Herman said the design will turn the Arts Center "inside out" — to restore its connection to the park and the community that surrounds it and act as an anchor to the revitalization of downtown. 

The McArthur Museum, which features exhibits on Arkansas involvement in the Civil War and the world wars and has a collection of significant military artifacts, will be able to make much needed repairs and upgrades to the 1840 building. McAteer noted the fact that the historic arsenal building, the birthplace of Gen. Douglas MacArthur, has not been renovated since 1965. It has a 25-year-old boiler, its porches need replacing as do its fire sprinkler heads, and its exhibits need refurbishing. It got its second paid employee thanks to the 2011 sales tax increase; prior to that McAteer was the only employee of the military museum.

The ordinances and resolution were taken up after a brief citizen communication in which a woman took the city board and chief of police to task for not properly recognizing the retirement of Capt. Patrice Smith, the LRPD's first black sergeant, first woman lieutenant and first woman captain. She retired Nov. 23 after 33 years of service, but the speaker said her no city director or the chief came to her retirement event "to shake her hand.'

City Manager Bruce Moore told the board that there was an "outstanding issue with Capt. Smith, and as soon as it's resolved we'll schedule a ceremony."

The board also voted to recess rather than adjourn so it could study a proposed ordinance that would allow the city to "dispense with the requirements for competitive selections and to award contracts for a period of ten (10) months to PIT [Prevention, Intervention, and Treatment] providers; and for other purposes." Director Dean Kumpuris moved that the board take up the ordinance next week after Director Kathy Webb said she had been approached by people who had concerns with a couple of the projects and Director Joan Adcock complained that she never received a list from Moore on rejected contracts. The PIT programs, designed to help at-risk youth, are a continuea


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