Arkansas Arts Center to Furlough Staff Through May

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The Arkansas Arts Center of Little Rock on Friday announced a plan to furlough 36% of its full-time staff through at least May 18. 

The nonprofit, which is conducting a sweeping renovation to its museum in MacArthur Park, said it will continue to provide health insurance benefits and make retirement contributions to furloughed staff during the temporary leave of absence. 

“This is a particularly critical time in the history of the AAC as we balance our annual programming budget with the building construction project and capital campaign,” AAC Board President Merritt Dyke said. “Millions of dollars, both public and private, and thousands of hours have already been invested into the construction of a new AAC.

“Staff is scheduled to move back to MacArthur Park in less than a year,” Dyke said. “We need staff at this crucial juncture to keep the project on schedule, avoid costly construction delays, plan for future exhibitions and programs, and ensure we remain good stewards of funds received through the capital campaign.”

The AAC recently canceled its Museum School Spring Quarter, a loss of $150,000 in revenue, while still paying faculty through the quarter. The center also faces a reduction in support from the city of Little Rock in the amount of $233,333. 

“Our budget discussions have focused on two important goals,” AAC Executive Director Victoria Ramirez said. “Taking care of our dedicated staff as best we can in the short term and making sure the Arts Center will emerge from this crisis on stable financial footing.”

The AAC receives $2.4 million in yearly funding from an endowment, which has been affected by stock market fluctuations. 

“During these uncertain times, it’s of vital importance that we maintain reliable revenue for the Arts Center provided annually through our endowment,” AAC Foundation Board President Warren Stephens said. “The Foundation Board will assess the level of support we can sustain while preserving the endowment as we navigate this unprecedented crisis.” 

The center’s operating budget is separate from the budget for the center’s renovation project, which is expected to cost about $100 million. At present, the building project remains on schedule, Stephens said.

As of mid-March, Americans for the Arts reported that the nonprofit arts sector had already lost $3.2 billion due to the ongoing crisis. Last month, the Arkansas Repertory Theatre indefinitely suspended all programming activities, including productions, events and educational offerings.