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We have a history for you

Learn more about the rich history of the River Valley Arts Center.

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Our History


WPA built the rock building that would eventually house the River Valley Arts Center.


After a June planning meeting, a $5,000 grant from the Junior Auxiliary, and commitments from community leaders for over $10,000, the River Valley Arts Center Foundation, Inc. was formed.

The Arts Center officially opened its doors to the public at an all day celebration and ribbon cutting ceremony on October 7th in the borrowed building on West Main Street.

Articles of Incorporation prepared by Lu Hardin were signed in December 1981. A Board of Directors was formed and Richard Barton served as the first Executive Director.


After three years the borrowed building was sold and the arts center needed a new home. The City of Russellville agreed to lease the rock building built by the WPA in 1936 which had formerly been the public pool bathhouse located in the City Park. The building was renovated with community donations and labor as well as the assistance of Van Horn construction.


A Memorial Garden was designed and added to honor the six residents who were lost in an airline crash, including then Arts Center president Gordon McLerran.


The Main building now houses a main gallery space with monthly exhibits, a smaller gallery called the New Age Gallery, a classroom, gift shop, office, restrooms, galley kitchen and a receptionist area. The original pool chemical storage building was a challenging renovation, but now functions as a kiln room. A small building was donated by City Corporation and moved to its current location to house the pottery studio.

Most of the operating budget for the River Valley Arts Center comes from memberships and support of area residents, with some funding from small corporate and foundation grants and the support of the Arkansas Arts Council. Class fees go towards supplies and paid instructors. 

A full time Executive Director and a part time administrative assistant, and a part time artist in residence comprise the staff of the Arts Center. 

With the help of the Board of Directors, community volunteers, and partnerships with area organizations we are able to provide an array of visual and performing arts programs and venues which enriches the Arkansas River Valley communities.

board of directors

David Coffman
Vice President
Libby Caston

Ryan Mikles

Sherry Tinerella

Board Members
Dr. Chris Housenick
Lillian Green
Cecelia Langford
Mora Hammer

Lynn Cox
Phil Wanzer

Outreach Coordinator
Cliff A. May


Executive director

Jennifer Lewter, Ph.D.

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