Currently on, is the Center's 56th annual Young Arkansas Artists exhibit, a yearly competition that showcases work from children and art classes found in schools from Little Rock to Texarkana. Almost 500 works—including drawing, watercolor, and sculpture—were submitted this year, with a final 104 chosen for the exhibit.
"[The exhibit] impacts the community in a lot of different ways," says Todd Herman, Executive Director of the Arkansas Arts Center. "It's a big family affair, and if you talk to adults, they'll tell you exactly what year their work got into the Young Arkansas art show at the Center."
Established in 1960, the Arkansas Arts Center, at first glance, is a museum comprised of an impressive permanent collection fixated on drawing and contemporary craft. Its galleries, completely free of charge, contain work by masters like Rembrandt and Picasso. American glass and metal work from the 20th century is equally represented.
The museum also offers art programs for both children and adults, teaching classes on jewelry making and photography, or geared at expanding creative skillsets through portfolio reviews or new media tutorials.
"There is this real wonderful symbiosis between the collection itself and the artists who are learning," Herman tells Creators. "They can reference the collection as they're learning."
A theatre that's dedicated to performing children's literature is another aspect of the Center's work that places it in the category of arts institutions done right, but it's a commitment to engaging communities outside of its base in Little Rock that may put the Center a cut above the rest. It's Artmobile, for instance, travels with collections around the state.
"It's a tractor trailer and the back part of it is fitted on the inside just like a gallery space," explains Herman. "It travels around the state to schools, libraries, community centers, retirement villages, wherever we can take it. It goes into areas and communities that otherwise may not ever have a genuine art experience."
Promoting creative thinking is the driving factor of the Arkansas Art Center's existence and one that is seen through its exhibit of children's work where benefits are perhaps proven by analysis of 2002 National Endowment for the Arts data demonstrating how greater participation in the arts makes participation in civic society more likely.
"Without vibrant, strong arts programs you're leading to generations of adults who have no idea what cultural heritage means or how they fit into the larger context of history, creativity, and what it means to be a human being with creative ideas," says Herman.
Highlighting work from Arkansas students, from kindergarten to grade 12, the annual Young Arkansas Artists show reaffirms the importance of arts education, both through small but welcomed monetary prizes to some of the participating schools' arts departments and, more importantly, recognition for creative achievement.
"For the kids, it's mostly that their work is hanging in a legitimate museum," says Herman. "That's the thrill that they'll always remember."