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Arts & Science Center for Southeast Arkansas

The Arts & Science Center for Southeast Arkansas in Pine Bluff (Jefferson County), accredited by the American Association of Museums (AAM), is the hub for fine arts, performing arts, arts and science classes, and hands-on children’s science exhibits for the ten-county area of southeastern Arkansas. The mission of the Arts & Science Center is to “provide opportunities for the practice, teaching, performance, enjoyment and understanding of the arts and sciences.”

The Arts & Science Center for Southeast Arkansas traces its history to March 4, 1968, when two local community arts groups merged by ordinance of the Pine Bluff City Council and assumed the name of Civic Center Arts Museum. Soon afterward, the center grew to include performing arts, science exhibits, and educational programming, broadening its reach to the ten-county region of Arkansas, Ashley, Bradley, Chicot, Cleveland, Desha, Drew, Grant, Jefferson, and Lincoln counties. After services were expanded to this region, the city council changed the name in May 1969 to Southeast Arkansas Arts & Science Center. In 1971, the center became a commission of the City of Pine Bluff, whereby it operates with a separate decision-making board but works within city government, much like a library. In 1987, the center’s name was changed to the Arts & Science Center for Southeast Arkansas.

From 1968 to 1986, the center operated out of the Pine Bluff Civic Center with an art gallery, a science education junior gallery, a permanent collection gallery, a 192-seat theater, and administrative offices. A satellite building—a former fire station—designated for education classes was lent to the center by the city. In 1986, fire heavily damaged the Civic Center facility. Although the theater was eventually restored, the galleries, offices, and collections were moved to a historic home on Martin Street. The old fire station, known as the Little Firehouse Studio, continued as a classroom and student gallery. Due to this geographic separation, the need arose to have a facility that would house all programs under one roof. In anticipation of a building project, the Arts & Science Center for Southeast Arkansas Endowment Fund, Inc., was established in 1986 as a separate 501(c)(3) organization, legally responsible for raising and managing capital and endowment funds.

In 1994, following a successful fundraising campaign, the current facility was built at 701 Main Street in downtown Pine Bluff. The 22,000-square-foot facility was built to AAM accreditation standards. The building includes four galleries, a 232-seat theater, classroom space, administrative offices, a vault, and adequate preparatory and conservation space for the center’s programming efforts.

The center offers several children’s science exhibits on a rotating basis. Exhibits have included Illusion Confusion, Good Vibrations, and Grossology. Year-round science classes are also available. As part of its commitment to providing quality children’s science exhibits, the center is a member of a seven-museum consortium in Arkansas, the Arkansas Discovery Network, which is funded by the Donald W. Reynolds Foundation.

Besides exhibiting well-known local, state, regional, national, and international artists, the center offers year-round art classes in sculpture, mixed media, and more. Exhibits have included the work of Frederic Remington and Norman Rockwell, as well as a collection of art and artifacts from western Africa ranging from the fifth century to the late twentieth century. The center, as part of its mission, also regularly exhibits works from artists throughout Arkansas and the Delta region. The center’s permanent collection addresses a regional constituency and places emphasis on collecting works by African-American artists, Arkansas artists, and artists living and working in the South.

The center hosts a monthly music series, Live@5, on the first Friday of each month, showcasing the music of Arkansas musicians and featuring the Delta sounds of jazz, blues, soul, rock, and country. The center also hosts community theater productions of both nationally famous works, such as Guys and Dolls and Barefoot in the Park, and plays by Arkansas playwrights. Theater classes and camps for adults and children also are offered.

For additional information:
Arts & Science Center for Southeast Arkansas. http://www.artssciencecenter.org (accessed April 20, 2009).

DeLano, Patti. Arkansas: Off the Beaten Path. Guildord, CT: The Globe Pequot Press, 2004.

Peacock, Leslie Newell. “Find Treasure ‘Here.’” Arkansas Times, June 23, 2016, pp. 14–18, 20–21. Online at http://www.arktimes.com/arkansas/the-arts-and-science-center-puts-pine-bluff-on-the-map-of-the-art-world/Content?oid=4463350 (accessed June 23, 2016).

Brenda Hengel
Arts & Science Center for Southeast Arkansas

Last Updated 6/23/2016

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