Regional Update: Arkansas

Published May 20th 2023
By Stephanie Maxwell Newton

“Together” is the cornerstone of AMFA’s opening exhibitions. Photo by Ian Baan.

Formerly known as the Arkansas Arts Center, the reimagined Arkansas Museum of Fine Arts finally celebrated its grand opening on April 22 with a ribbon cutting of the institution’s 133,000-square-foot campus. The new state-of-the-art facility offers opportunities for expanded exhibits, installations, and programming while better integrating into the green spaces in the surrounding MacArthur Park. AMFA-curated exhibition “Together” explores what it means to be connected—to each other, our communities, and the natural world—in light of the museum’s long closure and experience of separation during the Covid-19 pandemic (on view through September 10). A specially curated, ongoing exhibit of the museum’s permanent collection includes works by the old masters as well as contemporary pieces. Regular museum hours began May 2 and admission is free.

“Waiting at Union Station” by Dennis McCann (left) and “Gated Community 1” by Io Palmer, both are part of Fort Smith Regional Art Museum’s annual invitational.

Fort Smith Regional Art Museum celebrates its 75th anniversary as an arts institution this year. Earlier this spring, an exhibit of Pablo Picasso’s ceramics and a Paris-themed gala marked the occasion, and excellent programing continues throughout 2023. “Odyssey” is the theme of this year’s annual invitational, RAM’s competitive exhibition that invites artists to submit work interpreting a specific subject. The exhibit is on view through July 30. Also currently open is “Exploring the Woods Within,” a solo exhibition by Elizabeth Weber, an alumna of the 2022 annual invitational. See her nature-inspired sculptural work at RAM through July 9.

A member of Brazilian duo Bicicleta Sam Freio works on a new mural in Fort Smith. Photo via Instagram (@unexpectedfs).

Also in Fort Smith, two murals have been added to The Unexpected’s technicolor fingerprint around the city’s downtown. Bicicleta Sem Freio, a Brazilian duo, created the now-iconic “Catira” on the 800 Block of Garrison Avenue during the festival’s inaugural year. In April, they repainted the same wall with a new piece. While Fayetteville’s Jason Jones has been involved behind the scenes of the public art program for several years, his first mural appears on the Habitat for Humanity wall on Towson Avenue. Both murals have been added to The Unexpected’s printable map of associated art.

Fayetteville artist Jason Jones completes his first mural as part of Fort Smith’s The Unexpected.  Photo via Instagram (@unexpectedfs).

In Bentonville, the experiential outdoor exhibit “Listening Forest” by Rafael Lozano-Hemmer has returned to Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art after debuting on the museum’s grounds last fall. This collection of eight site-specific installations is a ticketed event available to view only after twilight. “Listening Forest” closes May 28, then returns again August 30 through December 31. Inside the museum, “Diego Rivera’s America” explores the Mexican artist’s life and work through 130 of his drawings, paintings, and frescoes. The exhibit is on view through July 31 and tickets are $12.

Rafael Lozano-Hemmer, Listening Forest, “Summon,” 2022. Photo by Stephen Ironside.

Stephanie Maxwell Newton lives in Little Rock where she is editor of At Home in Arkansas magazine. Read more of her work at and follow along on Instagram.