Tuesday, February 9, 2016

Little Rock voters approve bond issue for Arkansas Arts Center and MacArthur Park

Posted By on Tue, Feb 9, 2016 at 10:15 PM

A WIN FOR THE ARTS: Gary Smith, co-chairman of the Committee for Arts and History, which paid for the campaign for a 'yes' vote. - BRIAN CHILSON
  • BRIAN CHILSON
  • A WIN FOR THE ARTS: Gary Smith, co-chairman of the Committee for Arts and History, which paid for the campaign for a 'yes' vote.

In a special election today, Little Rock voters approved a bond issue to fund an overhaul of the Arkansas Arts Center, as well as improvements to MacArthur Park and the MacArthur Museum of Arkansas Military History.

Right now, with 89 percent of precincts reporting, the vote is 84-16 in favor of using a 2 cent hotel tax to float bonds for a renovation of the Arts Center. (The tax itself has already been approved by the city Board of Directors; today's vote was about how to commit the money.) Election results are here.

UPDATE, 11:40 p.m.: With all precincts now reporting, the percentages above still stand — 6,729 voted for the bond issue and 1,256 against it. That means 7,990 voters cast a ballot in the election, a turnout of 6.6 percent.

Here's background on the election from Leslie Peacock's January article for the Times, in which she argued that Little Rock voters should both support the bond issue and also demand more transparency and inclusion from their Arts Center in doing so.

Todd Herman, the Arts Center' executive director, issued the following statement:

Dear Arts Center Members,

We took another giant step toward our goal of a renovated Arts Center today with the successful public vote to bond the revenue from an existing sales tax on out of town visitors for the benefit of the Arkansas Arts Center, the MacArthur Museum of Arkansas Military History and Historic MacArthur Park.

We are incredibly grateful to all who voted and supported this measure.

More than a quarter of a million people use our facility every year, and over 50 years that has taken its toll on the building. The list of needed upgrades is long, including the mechanical systems, children’s theatre, lighting systems, and Museum School studio spaces, not to mention the tremendous need for additional space to properly house our art collection and create new educational spaces for families and kids.

Our next step will be to work with the city and the private sector to maximize the potential of these funds. With the continued support of our community, members, board and staff, we have the opportunity to create something aspirational and transformational for our community and visitors to enjoy for decades to come.

Our galleries are free and open to the public. I encourage all Arkansans to enjoy the treasures in their own backyard as we look forward to an exciting new future for the Arkansas Arts Center and Historic MacArthur Park.

Sincerely,

Todd Herman

Executive Director

Arkansas Arts Center

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