Arkansas Arts Center Partners with CALS

AAC Art Displays, Creative Classes Now in CALS Libraries

Stunning new works of art have sprouted up all over the library system, thanks to our new partnership with the Arkansas Arts Center. In addition to loaning artworks, the AAC is sending its expert teachers to several library locations to provide art instruction for students of all ages, as well as theater classes for children.

Viola Frey’s “Western Civilization Processional” at Main Library on loan from the Arkansas Arts Center

The Arts Center has begun an ambitious two-year remodeling process that has closed down its usual facility. By hosting the AAC in our well-equipped public spaces, CALS can assist this vital cultural institution to stay connected with the people of our community during the remodeling process.

AAC Museum School art instructor Robert Bean recently taught both Intermediate Drawing and an Urban Sketchbook class at our downtown campus, Library Square. Bean finds many benefits in the partnership with the library system.

“I think having access to the CALS facilities opens up a new way of looking for us,” Bean said. “It puts us in a new environment, a place where ideas that might not have made it off the shelf in a regular studio all of a sudden hop down and have legs to dance on. There are new things for us to look at, things to be inspired by. And I personally love being surrounded by books, so it feels comfortable to me, it feels powerful. It’s like there’s a new idea around every corner.”

Students in the Urban Sketchbook class were full of praise for the benefits of the class and Bean’s approach to teaching.

“I’ve been taking a lot of drawing classes with Robert,” said student Tricia. “But this class makes you draw quickly rather than just working in one small area for hours and hours. So it makes you see things differently. It’s more interesting sometimes to draw from real things than having to draw from a picture or a still life.”

Class members appreciate Robert Bean’s support and expertise as a teacher. “Robert is a wonderful teacher,” Maria said. “Already, he comes by and is giving me pointers, and I’m like, oh yeah! I see that! He’s a really positive teacher.”

Student Rodney is uniquely qualified to know good teaching, as Rodney is himself a high school art teacher. “Here we are out in this open space working – Robert is giving us some insight and some tasks, and when he’s walking around, he’s very nurturing,” Rodney said. “He’s always able to see the good. He has a critical eye, but he never imposes it on you in a harsh way.”

Rodney has his own compelling reasons for taking the class even though he is already an experienced artist and teacher. “I’m one of those people who feels that if I’m asking someone to do something, I should be able to do it myself. Because in art you’re really just putting yourself out there on display, and sometimes it does fail! That’s what I do on a daily basis—I’m asking people to put themselves out there, to put out their own signature, who they are. And that’s a lot to ask of people and not be able to do it yourself. Putting myself in that position allows me to be more empathetic with my students and to understand what they’re going through.”

Robert Bean described the rewards of his work in his interaction with students.  “The lightbulb moments. That short little spark in time where you can just see the world shift just a little bit in the eyes of the student. You can see that the world has changed for them, at least in how they perceive it. It’s a little deeper, a little more interesting. And we have some of the most engaged students at the (AAC) Museum School, so you get to see this happen fairly often.

Meanwhile, at the Hilary Rodham Clinton Children’s Library, more AAC classes were taking place for children in both art and theater. A sunny Saturday morning saw groups of little ones crowding around their teacher to use their imaginations to tell their own stories. Bigger kids played theater games with an energetic coach in the library’s performance amphitheater.

Rivka Kuperman, Production Stage Manager at the Arkansas Arts Center Children’s Theatre, commented on the advantages of the CALS Children’s Library as a setting for classes.  “The partnership with CALS has allowed us to enrich our environment for youth theatre classes.  Not only do we have access to a beautiful amphitheater style space, but also have the advantage of being surrounded by children’s literature, which is at the core of everything we do.  It’s so easy to grab a book, tell a story, and inspire students to play and create together.”

Many area residents who have grown up with the top-quality productions of the AAC Children’s Theatre will be happy to know that the work of these professional dramatists goes on, and will continue to benefit our area children during the remodeling of the Arts Center.

For more information on the AAC classes in art and theater at CALS, please visit