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Little Rock, Arkansas | ©Nicolas Henderson/Flickr

The Ultimate Guide to Arkansas’ 10 Best Art Galleries and Museums

Picture of Helen Armitage
Updated: 15 November 2016
Arkansas, the state that gave us Bill Clinton, Johnny Cash and graphic novelist Nate Powell, is brimming with artistic talent and innovative spaces in which to showcase it. From an open air sculpture garden and a suburban garage transformed into an arts space in Little Rock, to a popular new American arts museum in Bentonville, Arkansas is putting itself on the map as a must see arts destination.

Arkansas Arts Centre

Founded in 1960, the Arkansas Art Centre is a museum and hub for visual and performing arts located in the historic MacArthur Park, which was established as Little Rock’s first public park in 1892. The centre has multiple gallery spaces and an extensive permanent collection focused on 20th century and contemporary drawings that was built on early acquisitions including works by Dutch American abstract expressionist Willem de Kooning and American realist painter Andrew Wyeth. The centre holds the annual Delta Exhibition, now in its 56th year, which showcases contemporary works in all mediums from artists living in the Arkansas and Mississippi Delta regions, and is currently exhibiting a number of works by the late, great Arkansas born painter Carroll Cloar, renowned for his evocative depictions of the American South.

Arkansas Arts Centre, 9th and Commerce/MacArthur Park, Little Rock, AR, USA, +1 501 372 4000

The Bernice Garden

The Bernice Garden is an innovative open air sculpture gallery that mixes art and nature and is owned by Anita Davis. She wished to establish an eco-friendly space where local artists and the community could come together and after spotting a vacant lot on downtown Little Rock’s South Main Street, Anita snapped it up and established the sculpture garden in 2007. Showcasing works created by Arkansas based artists that change yearly, the garden also practices sustainability with all artworks made from recycled materials and a canopy structure that collects rainwater to hydrate the garden’s plants and flowers. Local artists featured at The Bernice Garden include Mia Hall, who also heads the University of Arkansas at Little Rock’s furniture design department, and Stuttgart born Kerrick Hartman.

The Bernice Garden, 1401 South Main Street, Little Rock, AR, USA, +1 501 410 3938

Image courtesy of The Bernice Garden
Image courtesy of The Bernice Garden

Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art

The Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art opened in November 2011 to showcase its extensive collection of American art dating from the colonial period to the contemporary era in all mediums including sculpture, painting, photography, drawing and installation. Designed by the acclaimed Israeli Canadian architect Moshe Safdie the museum is named after Crystal Spring, the natural spring surrounding the property, and its unusual bridge feature attracted 655,000 art lovers in its first year. Amongst the Crystal Bridges Museum collection are iconic images including Andy Warhol’s Dolly Parton, works by fellow pop artist Roy Lichtenstein and more recent works such as those of Leo Villareal, the New York City based artist who creates computer programmed illuminated displays. The woodlands surrounding the museum include a short ‘art trail’ that takes visitors past a number of outdoor sculptures including James Turrell’s Skyspace structure.

Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art, 600 Museum Way, Bentonville, AR, USA, +1 479 418 5700

Image courtesy of Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art, Bentonville, Arkansas, image by Timothy Hursley
Image courtesy of Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art, Bentonville, Arkansas, image by Timothy Hursley

Good Weather Gallery

The Good Weather Gallery is an alternative contemporary art gallery that resides in the single-car garage of a lakeside property in the residential Lakewood neighbourhood in North Little Rock. Established in 2012, the gallery is the brainchild of designer and sculptor Haynes Riley who, after receiving his MFA at the Cranbrook Academy of Art, decided to re-invent his brother’s garage as an art space as part of an exploration into alternative uses of the American suburban garage. Good Weather shows around nine month-long exhibitions a year from artists based across the US and Canada, and has exhibited the works of Los Angeles based artistic duo Lauren Cherry and Max Springer, painter Ezra Tessler from Brooklyn and Rhode Island born artist Katie Wynne, who assembles sculptures from found objects and materials.

Good Weather Gallery, 4400 Edgemere Road, North Little Rock, AR, USA, +1 501 680 3763

Image courtesy of Good Weather Gallery
Image courtesy of Good Weather Gallery

Fort Smith Regional Art Museum

The Fort Smith Regional Art Museum dates back to the late 1940s but was officially incorporated in 1968 as the Fort Smith Art Centre. In these early years the centre resided in a Victorian house before moving to its current state-of-the-art premises in the heart of historic Fort Smith. The new museum opened in early 2013 in a former mid-century bank building that was re-designed by Little Rock based architects Polk Stanley Wilcox, who also designed the William J Clinton Presidential Centre, and won the 2013 Excellence in Preservation through Rehabilitation award from the Historic Preservation Alliance of Arkansas. The museum’s permanent collection includes works by American artists Alexander Calder and Noel Rockmore and the Catalan painter and sculptor Joan Miró, and the museum has exhibited the work of site-specific installation artist Dayton Castleman.

Fort Smith Regional Art Museum, 1601 Rogers Avenue, Fort Smith, AR, USA, +1 479 784 2787

The Fort Smith Regional Art Museum
The Fort Smith Regional Art Museum| Image courtesy of Janet Warlick, Camera Work Photography

Walton Arts Centre

Established in 1992, the Walton Arts Centre is a unique, multi-purpose space that aims to bring artists and performers from across the globe to Northwest Arkansas to engage its residents and visitors in the arts. Located in picturesque Fayetteville, the Walton Arts Centre features several gallery spaces including the Joy Pratt Markham Gallery – a visual arts space dedicated to showcasing the works of contemporary up and coming and internationally recognised artists. The centre has exhibited the work of contemporary Oklahoma-based Native-American artists Anita Fields, who works with ceramics, Tony Tiger, who blends photography and tribal designs in his canvasses, and sculptural artist Tasha Lewis whose last exhibition at the centre, The Herd and The Swarm, featured 17 sculptures of gazelles, antelopes and impalas.

Walton Arts Centre, 495 West Dickson Street, Fayetteville, AR, USA, +1 479 443 5600

Gallery 360

Gallery 360 is an alternative contemporary arts gallery that was established to showcase and sell the creations of artists working left of the mainstream to a wider audience. Situated within a trendy and intimate one storey building with graffiti art adorning its exterior walls, Gallery 360 opened in October of 2012 with an inaugural exhibition themed around Day of the Dead which featured art in many mediums including painting, sculpture and fabric and contributions by Portland, Oregon based artist Catherine Zacchino and the award-winning Chicana artist Sabrina Zarco. Gallery 360 has since held a number of exhibits in its few years including Little Rock natives Kelley Naylor Wise, who makes bold abstract paintings using acrylics and mixed media, and Amy Edgington who creates dreamlike canvasses using found texts, objects, paints, scrap fabrics and paper.

Gallery 360, 900 South Rodney Parham Road, Little Rock, AR, USA, +1 501 663 2222

Courtesy of Gallery 360
Courtesy of Gallery 360

Stephano’s Fine Art Gallery

Located within the charming, affluent Little Rock neighbourhood of The Heights, Stephano’s Fine Art Gallery was opened in 2007 by painter Stephano with the intention of introducing and exhibiting thought-provoking, innovative works of contemporary art from both regional Arkansas artists and artists based across the US. Since the gallery opened, Stephano’s has gained a reputation for discovering and showcasing a diverse body of visually stunning art and in 2010 was voted the best art gallery in Central Arkansas by The Little Rock A-List. Stephano’s Fine Art Gallery currently represents actor turned artist Tony Dow, of Leave it to Beaver fame, who creates a wide range of art including watercolours, blown glass pieces and sculptures in wood and bronze.

Stephano’s Fine Art Gallery, 1813 North Grant Street, Little Rock, AR, USA, +1 501 563 4218

Gallery 26

Gallery 26 was established in 1995 and for nearly 20 years has been dedicated to bringing the most exciting and cutting edge art from artists based in Central Arkansas to its visitors. The deceptively large gallery is located within the historic Ice House Centre on Little Rock’s winding, boutique and restaurant lined Kavanaugh Boulevard in the historic Hillcrest neighbourhood. With an open-minded ethos, Gallery 26 accepts contributions from artists working across a number of mediums including painting, photography, sculpture and glass-based art. Exhibitions at Gallery 26 have included works by Little Rock based photojournalist Benjamin Krain, portrait photographer Jennifer Heimbaugh, and painters Jason Smith, Logan Hunter and Holly Moore Reding, whose work responds critically to the idea of mass culture.

Gallery 26, 2601 Kavanaugh Boulevard, Suite #1, Little Rock, AR, USA, +1 501 664 8996

M2 Gallery

M2 Gallery was established in 2007 by two couples – Mac and Ashley Murphy and John and Kim McGee – who wished to combine their years of experience in the art world by creating an exciting and sophisticated contemporary art gallery. The owners certainly achieved their goal and were recognised for three consecutive years as the best art gallery in the Best of Arkansas awards. M2 Gallery brings the best contemporary art from local, regional, national and international artists to Little Rock and exhibits works in a variety of artistic styles and mediums including painting, ceramics, photography and sculpture. The gallery has shown works by documentary-style photographer Diana Michelle Hausam and sculptor Joe Barnett among other notable names.

M2 Gallery, 11525 Cantrell Road, Little Rock, AR, USA, +1 501 225 6257