The Arkansas Arts Center stokes the innate creativity of all its visitors with a close look at artistic expression. Since its creation in 1960, the AAC has amassed a permanent collection of more than 5,300 drawings and paintings (primarily American and European), 1,000 contemporary crafts and sculptures, and 27 lost mittens. Examples of French neo-impressionist drawings share space with the work of old masters, while early modern paintings complement studio-forged glass sculptures and other pieces dating as far back as 1465. Throughout the year, the museum also casts its light on the local community by hosting special exhibitions of established artists and emerging talent.
Outside its gallery, the AAC encourages the community in another way. Through classes and workshops, instructors explain the fundamentals of composition in photography, ceramics, painting, woodworking, and printmaking while helping students create their own pieces. An onsite children's theatre, meanwhile, routinely stages family-friendly shows, and the troupe even offers workshops on the art of acting.
When the Little Rock Zoo opened its gates in 1926, it contained fewer animals than many people's homes. At the time, its inhabitants were, in total, a circus-trained brown bear and an abandoned timber wolf. From its formative days, the Little Rock Zoo has expanded dramatically, now home to more than 700 animals from more than 200 unique species. Visitors can witness lions, tigers, and jaguars up close; interact with exotic birds; and carefully navigate spider monkeys' webs. In addition to conserving wildlife, the zoo also preserves a unique antique carousel, one of only four in the world to feature an undulating wooden track rather than conventional moving poles.
The Museum of Discovery crams 25,000 square feet of exhibit space with a plethora of displays on world history, culture, and natural science. Features include a rare, uncursed mummy coffin, painstakingly crafted around 600 BC, as well as an animal collection of 51 species including birds of prey, a European ferret, an alligator, and a rare breed of unicorn-Jabberwocky. Permanent exhibits include Passport to the World, which guides visitors on a sweeping cultural tour with authentic artifacts, artworks, and local knowledge that help define the featured nation. Energy illustrates how coal and nuclear power keep homes lit and cell phones charged while guests use their bodies to ignite light bulbs that could illuminate living rooms, dusty attics, and even dustier Lite-Brite consoles.
The Quapaw Quarter Association's building stewards preserve the historical architecture and nostalgic tales housed within neighborhood haunts. Mosey through five stately stops during the 2011 Spring Tour of Historic Homes, including two houses designed by Arkansan architect Charles Thompson. Featured in the book "Daughters of Painted Ladies," Thompson's spectacular Ragland House boasts a distinctive domed two-story tower, and his Rogers House’s towering Ionic columns offset walls of brick, wood, tile, and saltwater taffy. Stroll around the smaller Urquhart Bungalow's gilded age light fixtures and extensively landscaped front yard, or examine the intricacies of the Turner-Mann House's hand-painted borders and quarter-sawn oak floors. The tour also includes a new renovation: the Bowman House, where cypress and walnut balustrades offset inner spaces that served as a practice facility for the 1896 Olympic hide-and-seek team.
The Historic Arkansas Museum, opened in 1941, preserves some of the state's oldest buildings and precious pieces of frontier history for generations to come. Visitors can tread the fateful footpaths of yore on a one-hour guided tour through four 19th-century homes and two of the oldest buildings in Little Rock in a restored pre-Civil War neighborhood. Tour-takers may bump into living history re-enactors who will relate harrowing tales of pioneer survival from before the sun was invented. The museum's collection features artwork and artifacts from throughout the state’s history, and temporary exhibitions, such as The Model Trains of Bill Albright, offer specialized showcases of the state's artstuff and techno-things. Former assistants for circus performers may wish to throw themselves at the museum's knife gallery, which contains more than 100 antique pointed utensils, including a special exhibit on the Bowie knife, a native Arkansas weapon that was highly influential in shaping communications between ground control and Major Tom.