A (Somewhat) Hidden Gem in Downtown Little Rock

Kerry Kraus

Recently I attended a meeting held in the Butler Center in downtown Little Rock. I had heard of it and the Arkansas Studies Institute (ASI) but had never visited either one. I knew they were great research facilities but that was the extent of my knowledge. Was I in for a surprise.

The Butler Center’s purpose is to “promote a greater understanding and appreciation of Arkansas history, literature, art, and culture.” Located inside the ASI building, it is a treasure trove of Arkansas art…of all kinds. The bright and colorful galleries showcase paintings of every genre, photography, sculpture, pottery, jewelry and other assorted handmade items. I spent every spare minute when not in my meeting checking-out the wares offered. Some of Arkansas’s best artwork is displayed here and it’s for sale. While we were there, we observed numerous tourists roaming the isles.

While browsing, we couldn’t help but notice a enticing aroma. It was coming from 4 Square Deli & Gifts, located next door to the Butler Center. The deli features a vegetarian menu including homemade soups and sandwiches. The gift shop has a eclectic array of Arkansas-made food products. One of the specials the day we were there was an Apple and Cheddar panini.

While you’re there, be sure and take note of the ASI building. It’s quite an attraction itself having won two national design awards: the 2011 AIA/ALA Library Building Award (only five given out worldwide) and winner of a national design award by the American Institute of Steel Construction.

The center is located at 401 President Clinton Avenue next to the Central Arkansas Library. If you’ve walked right by it when in the River Market, be sure and stop next time. You’re missing a downtown treasure. It truly showcases the best of The Natural State.

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