Fill up the tank, this is worth the drive: an all-in-one art museum, theater, music venue, and science classroom. At times, it runs educational dance studios and theatre and film camps. Plus it is among 4% of museums nationwide that have accreditation with the American Alliance of Museums (less than 4%, actually.) The only catch is, you have to travel all the way across the neighborhood to downtown Pine Bluff to find the Arts and Science Center for Southeast Arkansas (ASC). It takes up the space at 701 Main Street and looks suspiciously similar to the building in the image above.
ASC has been around for 50 years. They’ve been celebrating with celebratory exhibits of local artists. They also have anniversay-themed plans for their Potpourri 2018 on November 30 and December. But really, in many ways, ASC istaff members are aleays celebrating the arts and sciences and all the himan talent and intellect that create such endeavors.
Creative, Intellectual, and Cultural, Crossroads
ASC’s creative, intellectual, and cultural range cannot be overstated. One day, children may participate in an art program or printmaking. Another time, they may learn computer coding for biology or music applications. Stop-motion, a type of animation, has been covered as well.
Through the academic year, school children enjoy field trips that may involve a walk though ASC’s art exhibits one time or a science project the next. The summer schedule is filled with theater and dance camps as well as arts, crafts, and science activities. At times, ASC staff take the educational programs on the road for off-site delivery.
In the meantime, adults may come for jazz music and wine each month. And for all ages at any given time of year, multiple exhibits showcase paintings, sketches, and sculptures of nationally and internationally recognized artists. Photography contests that are open to the public run at various times throughout the year; the photography may be nature-themed, as the Bayou Photography Exhibit Bayou Bartholomew: In Focus was, or it may be devoted to history and culture, as was the Scenes Along the Delta . For that matter, ASC has also run photography classes.
In short, the diverse offerings and dedicated public outreach bring a great variety of people through the doors of this center. The ASC Executive Director Dr. Rachel Miller puts it well:
“ASC continues to be an intersection of arts, science, and performing arts—bringing people together for exhibitions, hands-on art and science activities, theater, and music—ensuring a cultural gathering place for people who might, otherwise, never cross paths. Think of ASC as a magnet for creativity, critical thinking, and lifelong learning.”
Still an Art Museum
The Arts and Science Center, originally an art museum, is true to its roots. As stated aboce, it is among the less-than-4% of museums nationwide that have accreditation with the American Alliance of Museums.
In recent years, collections on display have included the art of Kevin Cole, a native of Pine Bluff. His works are part of the African American Art from the Permanent Collection of the Arts and Science Center for Southeast Arkansas. Mr. Cole’s works are also featured in ASC’s 50th Anniversary celebrations along with the glass sculptures of local artist James Hayes.
What is now the The Arts and Science Center for Southeast Arkansas began in March of 1968 as the Civic Center Arts Museum. This came about from a local ordinance that merged two community art groups and placed it in the Pine Bluff Civic Center.; In no time, its mission expanded to include performing arts, science exhibits, and educational programs. Its home geographic outreach expanded to include ten counties in southeast Arkansas: Jefferson County, its original location, plus Arkansas, Ashley, Bradley, Chicot, Cleveland, Desha, Drew, Grant, Jefferson, and Lincoln Counties. Jefferson County, of which Pine Bluff is the county seat, has been its physical base from the beginning.
Due to these expansions, in May of 1969 the Pine Bluff City Council changed the name to Southeast Arkansas Arts and Science Center. In 1971, the center was established as a commission and thus gave decision-making authority to a board while remaining a part of local government. The center continued its outreach and growth, offering art and educational galleries as well as a theater, in this location for nearly two decades. When expansion was needed for educational programs, the city lent a building that once housed a fire station, aptly called The Little Firehouse Studio.
In 1986, however, a fire heavily damaged the Civic Center. The galleries, offices, and collections were relocated to an historic home on Martin Street. The original theater was eventually restored and thus remained at the original Civic Center location. So starting in 1986, the center spanned three locations: the historic structure on Martin, the Civic Center, and the Little Firehouse Studio. In order to get into one facility again, the Arts & Science Center for Southeast Arkansas Endowment Fund, Inc., was established in 1986. This meant a separate, largely independent 501(c)(3) organization was legally responsible for raising and managing capital and endowment funds.
The endowment fund was successful, and in 1994, ASC’s three sites relocated to one facility, its current location in downtown Pine Bluff: 701 Main Street. According to the Encyclopedia of Arkansas, “the 22,000-square-foot facility was built to AAM accreditation standards. The building includes four galleries, a 232-seat theater, classroom space, administrative offices, a vault, and adequate preparatory and conservation space for the center’s programming efforts.”
This is where the Arts and Science Center for Southeast Arkansas continues today, offering art and science exhibits plus classes for various age groups. Gallery admission and the vast majority of programs are free, and scholarships are available for the few activities that have operating and supplies costs. This is all in thanks to sponsors, donations, and ASC’s grant writing.
For more information, contact ASC and make plans to visit.
Arts and Science Center for Southeast Arkansas (ASC)
701 South Main Street
Pine Bluff, AR 71601