After breezing through the revolving doors of the Arkansas Arts Center (AAC) and walking up to the front desk, visitors need only flip through a museum brochure to grasp the wide scope of arts classes and educational programs the AAC offers.
There has been enormous growth over the past two years in both the AAC’s Museum School and program calendar. Today, the Museum School offers more than 100 classes with more than 60 instructors, including 10 diverse educational opportunities. The person behind it all? That would be Rana Edgar.
Looking at ease in the AAC’s library today, Edgar joined the staff in 2016 with an impressive resume. She earned her degree in photography from the College for Creative Studies in Detroit. Then the Florida native pursued her master’s degree at the esteemed Savannah College of Art and Design (SCAD). After graduation, Edgar was offered a job at SCAD’s museum. It was there she learned to coordinate exhibitions, organize educational programs, manage lecture series and more.
After interviewing with the AAC and visiting Little Rock only once, she was brought on as the director of education and programs. Edgar’s role includes creating educational programs for the center’s audience, putting together gallery talks or more formal lectures, as well as overseeing the Museum School, the Artmobile and the library. Edgar credits her to-do list habit as one of the ways she keeps things running smoothly.
When Edgar began, there were only three recurring programs: Feed Your Mind Friday, Super Sunday Free Family Funday and Art Together. In Edgar’s two years with the AAC, she has completely revamped the educational program and expanded the Museum School offerings to appeal to more of the arts center’s audience.
“We’re trying to widen the scope of programs that we offer,” Edgar says. “We’ve introduced the Art of Fashion and we are starting the Art of Motion and Music program, trying to bring in various other forms of design and art and having them be connected to either the special exhibitions we’re doing or works in our permanent collection.”
The Art of Fashion
Edgar is especially fond of the Art of Fashion lecture series, which launched in August of 2016. The quarterly series explores all aspects of fashion design, with past lectures given by fashion historians, designers and a soon-to-be critic. The series is a popular one — all six of the past lectures sold out.
“I’ve always had an interest in fashion,” Edgar says. “When I worked at SCAD we had a lot of fashion programs and they always drew a huge crowd. Everyone has an interest in fashion. It gives you the opportunity to talk about how fashion is an art form; it’s a form of design.
“My goal for [these lectures] is for our audience to grow a deeper appreciation of art and to be able to learn from fashion designers, to see how a lot of them draw inspiration from either artists or artworks or time periods that they’ve studied at some point in time, and then it’s translated into a design.”
When it comes to choosing lecture topics and speakers for the Art of Fashion series, Edgar tapped into SCAD’s endless network of creatives. During her time at the school, she developed friendships with several of the designers she has asked to speak at the AAC. Bridgette Fedak, the fashion designer from Lilly Pulitzer who spoke at one of last year’s lectures, was Edgar’s college roommate. And upcoming speaker Merline Labissiere of Bravo’s “Project Runway” fame is also one of Edgar’s past classmates.
New in 2018
Edgar tries to plan the lecture series eight months in advance, or as far in advance as she can. She has two scheduled Art of Fashion lectures in 2018, one in March and one in April. The first, “Becoming a Fashion Designer” by Labissiere will center on her work as a designer and her time on “Project Runway.”
Rana’s Top Picks
We picked Rana’s brain about her favorite (and least favorite) fashion trends.
Most cringe-worthy fashion phase growing up: The ‘90s grunge trend
Favorite type of jeans: Skinny jeans are my favorite.
Favorite Art of Fashion speaker: Definitely Bridgette from Lilly Pulitzer, for multiple reasons. She gave a really strong talk on what it means to be a fashion designer and how art really plays an important role in her designs. And for a personal reason, because she was my college roommate. To see her grow professionally and come here, it was like a homecoming. Then my other would be when we did the Chanel event, just to learn more about the history of the brand and to see all the garments that were here. That was a really special event.
Favorite designer: Chanel
Favorite piece of clothing you bought recently: I buy a lot of black dresses!
Designer you want to speak at an Art of Fashion lecture: Kate Spade
Go-to outfit for a confidence boost: Definitely a cute black dress with some type of bold accessory, whether it’s jewelry or shoes. Something to make it pop.
Favorite piece of jewelry: My great-grandma’s diamond ring that I had reset and had the band remade. I think for sentimental reasons, that’s my most favorite thing I own in terms of fashion.
“I think she’s going to give an interesting talk … Her designs are related to architecture because she was an architecture major first and then went into fashion,” Edgar says. “Her talk is going to be really fascinating in how she merges form.”
During the upcoming “Decades: A Century of Fashion with Cameron Silver” lecture in April, the AAC will again partner with Dillard’s at Park Plaza Mall. Cameron Silver is a celebrity stylist and best-selling author known among the fashion world as a style authority. Silver will discuss the timeless trends throughout the 20th century. After the lecture, there will be a fashion show featuring trends from the 1900s-2000s and an H by Halston pop-up shop in the arts center’s atrium.
“He’s a fashion expert, he’s a fashion critic, he’s on ‘Good Morning America’ and critiques what people have worn on the red carpet,” Edgar says. “I think that some of the history that he has to share about the fashion industry and his personal stories will be really appealing.”
But, of course, the Art of Fashion series is not the only program Edgar organizes. Each month, the museum still opens its doors to the public on Super Sundays, and continues its Art Together program, an initiative for dementia patients and their caregivers through a partnership with Alzheimer’s Arkansas.
The Arkansas Arts Center also puts on a distinguished lecture series, docent-led gallery discussions, family festivals and continuing education opportunities for educators. Art After Hours hosts patrons for a relaxed evening of viewing galleries or enjoying a lecture or film. On the third Thursday of the month, Art Start! invites young audience members to listen to an art-related story, then create an art project afterward. And Feed Your Mind Friday is a monthly gallery talk series on Fridays with the goal of imparting art wisdom during a lunch break.
The Art of Motion and Music series will be a new addition to the program in 2018. The series will touch on the history of music and dance and how they intertwine with art. The series is still in the planning stages, but Edgar aims to explore how a particular dance or composition relates to what was going on in the art world during the same time.
Even with so many irons in the fire, Edgar laughs off questions of “How do you do it all?” She says she gets help from her team of 12 to come up with new ideas and improve existing programs. Her main goal of merging all of the museums programs together seems to be working. Almost as an aside, Edgar mentions that the AAC recently hosted a Canine Couture class introducing students to the different media the Museum School offers.
“In ceramics, you made a little ceramic dog bowl,” Edgar says. “In the jewelry department, you made a dog tag. We did a printmaking class where you made a little bandana and printed a little dog bone on it. In our glass department, you made a fused glass piece to hold a picture of your dog. It was kind of fusing the fashion into the school.”
Merging her favorite medias together into one cohesive program is something Edgar has down to a fine art. Taking what was previously a standard arts lecture lineup, Edgar has infused her special brand of je ne sais quoi into all she does at the AAC. As long as she’s holding the reins, Edgar is sure to continue providing new and interesting ways for central Arkansans to appreciate art in its many forms.
Spring Art of Fashion Lectures to Keep on Your Radar
Becoming a Fashion Designer: How Merging Architecture and Fashion Impacts the Work of Merline Labissiere | Thursday, March 29
Labissiere, a designer who has been on “Project Runway,” majored in fashion with a minor in architecture from the Savannah College of Art and Design. She fuses her knowledge of architecture into her work as a fashion designer and will discuss her journey and inspiration in her lecture at the AAC.
Decades: A Century of Fashion with Cameron Silver
Saturday, April 14
Silver is a fashion director at H by Halston, a global celebrity stylist, best-selling author and established fashion expert. Silver’s lecture will discuss 20th century fashion and will highlight the timeless trends from the 1900s-2000s. After the lecture, there will be a fashion show and pop-up shop in collaboration with Dillard’s at Park Plaza Mall.