Home to the Humanities: Art and History Come Alive in Arkansas
Arkansas’s distinct beauty serves as inspiration to local artists. Museums and galleries throughout the state showcase their work, while orchestras delight listeners indoors and out with crisp, soul-stirring melodies. Performance art thrives on the stages of community theaters that feature local and national talent, and many centers and museums offer classes on a variety of mediums for children and adults. For history buffs, Arkansas’s museums showcase topics spanning the Civil War, desegregation, gangsters, the world’s largest corporation and famous Arkansans. (Boldface denotes advertiser.)
The Arkansas Arts Center features an acclaimed collection of unique works on paper, primarily European and American, from the Renaissance to the present. The galleries also feature contemporary objects in craft media including teapots, baskets, turned wood, studio glass and more. Admission is free. Open 10 a.m.-5 p.m. Tuesday-Saturday and 11 a.m.-5 p.m. Sunday.
This museum tells the story of the Arkansas National Guard, from its militia roots to its participation in the current global war on terror. Displays include large scale models of the post in the WWI and WWII eras, weapons, vehicles, airplane models, uniforms and photographs. A free audio tour is also available.
The Rep presents eight Main Stage performances and several special events each season. Performances are held in a restored building in downtown Little Rock. Performances are typically Wednesday through Sunday and include a Sunday matinee. Ticket prices depend on show and seating and range from $20 to $60.
Every summer, the Arkansas Shakespeare Theatre produces a repertory of family-friendly professional productions at Reynolds Performance Hall on the University of Central Arkansas campus. With dual missions of excellence and accessibility, the theatre adds something unique to the region and provides thousands of families with a one-of-a-kind theatre experience in a world-class facility.
The Arkansas Symphony Orchestra performs more than 30 concerts at Robinson Center Music Hall each year and at numerous special events including ACXIOM SuperPops. Other ASO activities include its resident string quartets, the Quapaw Quartet, the ASO Arts Partners and the Arkansas Symphony Youth Orchestras.
Celebrity Attractions treats central Arkansas to Broadway shows. Part of the 2010-11 season includes the largest production ever to visit the state – the three-time Tony Award-winning show “Wicked” – as well as Oprah Winfrey’s “The Color Purple” and a new production, “Aluminum.” Performances are held at Robinson Center Music Hall.
Since opening in 2000 with a sold-out concert by the late Ray Charles, this 1,200-seat performance hall has hosted numerous celebrities, including the Temptations, Gladys Knight, the Irish Tenor Ronan Tynan, Frankie Valli & the Four Seasons, mezzo soprano Denyce Graves, Dallas Cowboys owner Jerry Jones, and many national and international touring companies.
Emoba hosts changing exhibits that explore the African-American experience in Arkansas. Housed in a former church, Emoba explores the role African Americans played in the cultural development of the state and showcases artifacts of Afro- American culture.
For more than 60 years, Heifer International has pursued a mission to end hunger and poverty. At Heifer Ranch, an inspiring educational center and working farm, visitors can register for programs to delve into these global issues or take a tour and purchase unique gifts at Shop@heifer.
More than 80 inspiring interactive exhibits make this experience fun and educational. Explore the solutions to some of the world’s most pressing problems and take tours of the green building and restored wetlands. Finish up your day by eating indoors or out at Café@Heifer or take home unique earth- and artisan-friendly gifts from Shop@Heifer. Admission is free.
History comes to life every day at the Historic Arkansas Museum in five galleries of Arkansas-made art and artifacts, including a Native American Gallery and an interactive Children’s Gallery. Block 32 of the frontier city of Little Rock includes the city’s oldest standing building, the Hinderliter Grog Shop.
Jacksonville Museum of Military History
100 Veterans Circle, Jacksonville
Be reminded of the sacrifice of America’s veterans at the Jacksonville Military Museum. The museum, located on the site of the administration building of the Jacksonville Ordnance Plant during WWII, was built to ensure that the freedoms Americans enjoy are not taken for granted. It includes many special exhibits, a museum store, and a media presentation and research room.
Little Rock Central High School National Historic Site
2125 W. Daisy L. Gatson Bates Drive, Little Rock
In September 1957, Central High School became a battleground in the struggle for civil rights. Learn more about events that challenged the citizens of this nation to debate the meaning of equal rights. Listen as those who were there tell their stories and test your knowledge of your own civil liberties.
This museum interprets the state’s military heritage from its territorial period to the present through artifacts, photographs, weapons, documents, uniforms and other military items. It also hosts many special events throughout the year, including the Murder Mystery Dinner Theater, Flag Day Celebration and more.
This state-of-the-art facility has more than 8,000 square feet of interactive exhibit and education space. It focuses on collecting, preserving, interpreting and celebrating African-American history, culture and community in Arkansas from 1870 to the present, as well as informing and educating the public about black achievements in business, politics and the arts.
Murry’s Dinner Playhouse has been serving up food, fun and entertainment since 1967, offering an all-you-can-eat buffet and a full season of Broadway’s best comedies and musicals.
Built in 1836, the Old State House was the Arkansas Capitol until 1911. This National Historic Landmark, the oldest standing capitol building west of the Mississippi River, served as the backdrop for both of President Bill Clinton’s election night victory speeches. Inside are six period rooms, exhibits on Arkansas’s first families, two legislative chambers and more. Guided tours are available daily.
Plantation Agriculture Museum
4815 Arkansas Highway 161, Scott
About 30 minutes from Little Rock, the Plantation Agriculture Museum in Scott interprets the history of cotton agriculture from 1836 to WWII through exhibits and programs. See early cultivation tools, rare cotton gins and the newly opened seed warehouse. A variety of special events and workshops are also held throughout the year.
Wildwood Park for the Performing Arts is the largest park dedicated to the performing arts in the South. The annual Wildwood Festival in June features opera, jazz, cabaret, blues, gospel, big band, dance and literary artists who perform in the Lucy Lockett Cabe Festival Theatre.
The William J. Clinton Presidential Center encompasses a museum, presidential archives and educational and research facilities. The museum features an exact replica of the Oval Office and a Cabinet Room complete with multiple computer stations to create an interactive experience for each guest.
In the heart of the city, this museum provides guests with a glimpse of Arkansas’s great outdoors. Exhibits showcase the role of fish and wildlife management in the state, and the museum’s location along the Arkansas River allows visitors to see wildlife firsthand. Visitors can also explore the Arkansas River Trail, which crosses the site, as well as visit the aquariums, gift shop and theater.
Arkansas Post Museum State Park
5530 U.S. Highway 165 S., Gillett
Explore this group of five exhibit buildings and learn about life on, and the history of, Arkansas’s Grand Prairie and Delta. The Main House contains an audiovisual room and gift shop. The Summer Kitchen showcases domestic tools and kitchen instruments of old. The Peterson Building interprets life on the southern end of the Grand Prairie and the Delta through exhibits and artifacts on display.
Arkansas State University Museum
110 Cooley Drive, Jonesboro
The ASU Museum features exhibits on the natural history and cultural heritage of the Mississippi River Delta region.
Delta Cultural Center
141 Cherry St., Helena-West Helena
Designed to interpret and preserve the history of the Delta, this complex is comprised of two museums – the Depot and the Visitors Center. The Depot showcases the histories of the Delta, the Mississippi River and Arkansas railroad, including a Civil War exhibit, and the Visitors Center features the “Delta Sounds” music exhibit, a live radio studio and the Museum Store.
The Forum Theatre
115 E. Monroe St., Jonesboro
The Forum Theatre is home to The Foundation of Arts, the regional non-profit arts organization that offers community theatre, arts education and outreach to the community. Also Jonesboro’s civic auditorium, concerts, plays, seminars, pageants, town meetings and more are held here.
Hampson Archeological Museum State Park
P.O. Box 156, Wilson
This museum boasts a nationally-renowned collection of artifacts from the Nodena site, a 15-acre village that thrived between 1400 to 1650 A.D. on a stretch of the Mississippi River. It also includes a virtual museum with 3D digital artifacts and 3D visualizations of the Upper Nodena Village to show what the site might have looked like during its time of occupation.
Hemingway Pfeiffer Museum
1021 W. Cherry St., Piggott
The Hemingway-Pfeiffer Museum & Educational Center includes a barn studio where American author Ernest Hemingway composed portions of “A Farewell to Arms.” The museum also includes the home of Hemingway’s second wife, Pauline Pfeiffer, whose family was prominent in northeast Arkansas. The properties have been renovated to focus on the 1930s era.
601 Arkansas Highway 142, Lake Village
There’s only one place that can give you a real glimpse of antebellum plantation life in The Natural State – Lakeport Plantation Home in Lake Village. The house, built around 1859 for Lycurgus and Lydia Johnson, is the only remaining one of its kind on the Mississippi River. It is now owned and operated by Arkansas State University as a museum with guided tours at 10 a.m. and 2 p.m. on Monday-Friday.
Lower White River Museum State Park
2009 Main Street, Des Arc
Come learn about the importance of Arkansas’s White River as a vital source of transportation for early settlers. The museum features life-sized figures of settlers who introduce themselves via audio using dialog taken from oral history records and slave narratives. It also houses many exhibits and artifacts as well as a replica of a late 1800s dogtrot log cabin.
Museum of the Arkansas Grand Prairie
921 E. Fourth St., Stuttgart
This museum showcases the history of agriculture, pioneers who farmed the Grand Prairie, waterfowlers, and the history of rice milling, crop dusting and fish farming. Highlights include the lights and sounds of the “Early Morning Duck Hunt on the Grand Prairie,” a one-of-a-kind “Coat of Many Feathers,” pottery by American Indians, 500 award-winning game calls and more.
Parkin Archeological State Park
P.O. Box 1110, Parkin
This park is the site of northeast Arkansas’s only remaining large platform mound from the American Indians between 1000 to 1550 A.D. Visitors can watch research in progress and see firsthand the results of careful excavations and laboratory analysis. The park also includes an exhibit area, auditorium, gift shop, picnic area, playground and 1910 Northern Ohio one-room schoolhouse.
Southern Tenants Farmer Museum
117 Main St., Tyronza
Museum exhibits located in the historic Mitchell-East Building focus on the South’s farm labor movement and the tenant farming and sharecropping system of agriculture. These stories are told through historic photographs, artifacts related to tenant farming, oral history excerpts, 1930s news reel footage and interactive exhibits.
The Fine Arts Center’s gallery showcases local artists’ works ranging from watercolors and pottery to oil painting and glass. The center also holds a variety of community workshops for artists.
Get an account of how some of the most infamous criminals in America coexisted with the quaint population of Hot Springs. Capone, Luciano, Sigel, Maxine and the rest of the gang are waiting for you in four galleries featuring high-tech audiovisual exhibits. Visitors can also play in the antique casino.
Garvan Woodland Gardens features 210 acres of woodland gardens surrounded by 4 1/2 miles of Lake Hamilton shoreline that attracts visitors from around the world. Guided walking and golf cart tours are available throughout the year.
This non-competitive documentary film festival, held in late October, features 100 films selected from more than 1,000 submissions. Filmmakers from around the world participate in Q&As with the audience. There are workshops, musical events and festivities that culminate in a Filmmaker Gala at the historic Arlington Hotel.
The Hot Springs Music Festival pairs world-class mentor musicians from major orchestras, chamber ensembles and conservatory faculties with especially talented pre-professional apprentices. The two groups play side by side in orchestral, chamber, solo recital, vocal, choral and chamber opera repertoire. For two weeks, these musicians present 20 concerts and more than 250 open rehearsals.
The mission of Mid-America Science Museum is to stimulate interest in science, promote public understanding of the sciences and encourage lifelong science education through interactive exhibits and programs. The museum store offers an array of creative and educational toys, games, kits and green gifts.
National Park Visitor Center in Historic Fordyce Bathhouse
369 Central Ave., Hot Springs
Fordyce Bathhouse offers 24 refurbished rooms to tour, a park orientation movie, exhibits and park maps. Guests can still see the Fordyce Spring and the original Otis elevator mechanism. Open 9 a.m.-5 p.m. daily, except Thanksgiving, Christmas and New Year’s Day.
Arkansas Air Museum
4290 S. School St., Fayetteville
Housed in the former headquarters for one of the nation’s aviator training posts during WWII, the Arkansas Air Museum displays exhibits that range from the golden age of aviation to the jet age. Among the exhibits are famous racing planes, an early jetliner, Vietnam-era Army helicopters and a Navy carrier fighter.
The Arts Center of the Ozarks in Springdale offers a full year of productions, from musicals and dramas to art exhibitions and concerts. Classes are also available for children and adults.
The Great Passion Play
935 Passion Play Road, Eureka Springs
The Great Passion Play takes visitors back 2,000 years to the final days of Jesus Christ’s walk on earth. The season is open from April through the last Saturday in October.
North Arkansas Symphony
605 W. Dickson St., Fayetteville
The orchestra produces a series of masterworks, as well as pops and family concerts presented between October and May in Baum Walker Hall at the Walton Arts Center and Arend Arts Center in Bentonville. Concert tickets are available from the Walton Arts Center box office at 479-443-5600.
Opera in the Ozarks
16311 U.S. Highway 62 W., Eureka Springs
Opera in the Ozarks has been called one of the top five opera festivals in the world. Each June and July it mounts more than 25 performances featuring fabulous young artists. Festival alumni sing in all the leading opera houses.
Ozark Folk Center State Park
1032 Park Ave., Mountain View
The Ozark Folk Center of Mountain View is America’s only facility that works to share the heritage and way of life of the Ozark Mountain people. It’s lively, it’s entertaining, and it makes learning about Ozark history and heritage loads of fun. It’s an adventure in yesterday’s Ozark way of life that you can see, touch and enjoy today.
Prairie Grove Battlefield State Park
506 E. Douglas St., Prairie Grove
The site of the last major Civil War engagement in northwest Arkansas is protected by the Prairie Grove Battlefield State Park. Visitors can walk along the ridge and in the valley where the heaviest fighting took place, take the one-mile Battlefield Trail, travel the five-mile driving tour, visit the Battlefield Museum and tour the historic structures in the Ozark village. The park also hosts Arkansas’s largest battle re-enactment biennially.
Rogers Little Theater
116 S. Second St., Rogers
Housed in the historic Victory Theater, the Rogers Little Theater features main stage performances, concerts, children’s productions, special events and more.
Sager Creek Arts Center
301 E. Twin Springs, Siloam Springs
This center stages numerous community theater productions, including musicals and dinner theater shows. Art exhibitions, workshops and concerts are also offered.
University of Arkansas Fine Arts Center Gallery
116 Fine Arts Center, Fayetteville
The University of Arkansas Fine Arts Center Gallery features exhibitions of art by local, regional and student artists throughout the academic year.
Walmart Visitors Center
105 N. Main St., Bentonville
The Walmart Visitors Center, a red and white building on the square in Bentonville, features exhibits that trace the formation and growth of Walmart stores. The center is located on the spot of Sam Walton’s first variety store. Exhibits include Walton’s truck and an exact model of his office.
Walton Arts Center
495 W. Dickson St., Fayetteville
The Walton Arts Center is Arkansas’s largest and busiest center for the performing arts and entertainment. Each year more than 140,000 people enjoy Broadway musicals, dance, jazz, world music, children’s and family programming and more. A non-profit arts organization, Walton Arts Center also serves more than 20,000 students and teachers from 30 school districts through arts learning programs.
The River Valley
Arkansas River Valley Arts Center
1001 E. B St., Russellville
The Arkansas River Valley Arts Center offers art exhibitions, educational programs and concerts. The center also sponsors artistic and cultural events throughout the area.
Center for Art & Education
104 N. 13th St., Van Buren
Housed in the historic St. Michael’s Catholic Church, the Center for Art & Education offers a wide range of educational programs. Tours, lectures, gallery talks and hands-on class activities for children and adults help create a deeper appreciation of the visual arts. An updated program schedule is available online.
Fort Smith Arts Center
423 N. Sixth St., Fort Smith
Located in the 1879 Vaughn-Schaap Home in Belle Grove Historic District, the Fort Smith Arts Center showcases the work of local and regional artists in revolving exhibits and competitions. The Art Center’s Gift Gallery offers original paintings, sculptures, jewelry and hand-thrown pottery.
Fort Smith Little Theatre
401 N. Sixth St., Fort Smith
Bringing live theater to western Arkansas and eastern Oklahoma since 1947, the Fort Smith Little Theatre is known as “Arkansas’s oldest continuously operating community theatre.” Seasonal and special performances are available throughout the year.
Arkansas Entertainers Hall of Fame
1 Convention Center Plaza, Pine Bluff
Trace the careers of some of Arkansas’s best-known performers at the Arkansas Entertainers Hall of Fame. Memorabilia includes items owned by Ronnie Dunn, Gil Gerard, Al Green, Levon Helm, Billy Bob Thornton, Jerry Van Dyke and other famous Arkansans.
Arkansas Railroad Museum
1700 Port Road, Pine Bluff
This museum features Engine 819, a mighty locomotive built in 1942 that ruled the railways for a dozen years before being replaced by diesel locomotives. Engine 819 is now on display at its birth place, along with Engine 336, a full-scale inside-the-building railroad depot and displays of railroad memorabilia.
Arts & Science Center for Southeast Arkansas
701 Main St., Pine Bluff
This 22,000-square foot facility offers three art galleries, a science gallery, a theater and a studio classroom.
Historic Washington State Park
100 S.W. Morrison St., Washington
Washington is home to more than 30 restored historic structures, including classic examples of Southern Greek Revival architecture, Federal architecture, Gothic Revival and Italianate. As a National Historical Landmark, a National Register of Historic Places site and an Arkansas State Park, this town also includes collections of antiques, guns and knives, guides in period attire and a surrey to ride around town.
219 Main St., Texarkana
Opened in 1924, the theater was fully restored to Italian Renaissance opulence in 1981 with assistance from native son H. Ross Perot and his sister, Bette. The theater hosts world-class performing artists, Tony Award-winning Broadway theater, symphony orchestras, music from the hottest musicians and dances from Moscow ballets and more.
President Bill Clinton’s First Home Museum & Exhibit Center
117 S. Hervey St., Hope
Guests can visit President Bill Clinton’s first home, which has been restored to depict Clinton’s life as a child. The Museum Store offers some of his recommended reading, memorabilia and crafts from Clinton’s Global Initiative and Fair Trade Federation. An archive including personal papers and ephemera from local individuals concerning their work with or reminiscences about Clinton and his childhood family is also underway.
South Arkansas Arts Center
110 E. Fifth St., El Dorado
The South Arkansas Arts Center houses a 206-seat auditorium, three visual arts galleries and more. Classes are provided for children and adults in visual arts, photography, drama, ballet and music. Touring shows and community plays are performed each year.
Texarkana Regional Arts Center
321 W. Fourth St., Texarkana
Celebrating 101 years, this adaptively restored center features vaulted arches, marble floors, a stunning Great Hall, and a brass and copper cage elevator. Twelve months of national touring exhibits plus local and regional art works are also housed here.