The Amarillo Art Center, located on the campus of Amarillo College, opened in 1972 under the sponsorship of the Amarillo Art Center Association, which was founded in 1966. The first chairman of the board of trustees was Betty Bivens Childers. This board cooperated with regents and the administration of Amarillo College to build a $2.2 million arts complex designed by Edward Durell Stone that consisted of three buildings. One of these buildings houses the Amarillo Art Center; it contains five exhibition galleries placed around an atrium, labs for ceramics and sculpture, an art reference library, and service areas and offices in a total usable space of over 32,000 square feet.
Amarillo College owns the building and provides the salary of the director. All acquisition programs, exhibitions, seminars, and classes are the responsibility of the board of trustees. Operating funds are raised by the board and the staff. Two volunteer organizations, the Amarillo Art Alliance and the Docent Council, assist the paid staff in raising funds and operating the center. Additional support for the center has been provided by the Texas Commission on the Arts and other government grants and an endowment fund initiated by Betty Bivins Childers. The Amarillo Art Center has been fully accredited by the American Association of Museums since 1979 and is also a member of the Texas Association of Museums.
The exhibition program sponsors traveling and original exhibits in all media and styles. Among the exhibits that have been displayed since 1972 are Legendary Costumes of the Metropolitan Opera (1984), Archeological Treasures of Ancient Egypt (1982), Early French Moderns (1982), Eight Modern Masters (1985), and Georgia O'Keeffe and her Contemporaries (1985). Each year at least twenty changing exhibits are presented. The center encourages emerging artists by offering exhibits to selected individuals each year. Some artists who had their first single exhibitions at the Amarillo Art Center include Melissa Miller and Jesús Batista Moroles.
The permanent collection has been assembled from gifts by collectors and artists and focuses on twentieth-century American art. In 1986 the collection numbered just under 500 pieces. In the collection are works by Georgia O'Keeffe, Franz Kline, Fritz Scholder, Elaine de Kooning, Larry Bell, Jack Boynton, Larry Calcagnyo, Martin Schrieber, Warren Davis, Arthur Rothstein, Dorothea Lange, Edward Steichen, Walker Evans, Alfred Stieglitz, Russell Lee, Luis Jiménez, Ellio Porter, Jeanne Reynal, and others.
Each year the center mounts seminars relating to exhibitions that attract scholars and artists from around the nation. In recent years Clement Meadmore, Walter Horn, Karl Kilinski, John Canaday, Philip Perlstein, and Marilyn Swezey have presented lectures. An education program offers preschool through adult classes in painting, drawing, weaving, ceramics, papermaking, caligraphy, and sculpture. The center sponsors an annual Jubilee of the Arts festival at which regional artists and craftsmen exhibit and sell their work and a Very Special Arts Festival for disabled children.