El Dorado provides a large cultural and performing arts community that is built upon a firm foundation of artistic excellence. Our vision is to always be widely recognized for the quality of our musical performances and programs and to provide a great quality of civic and cultural life for our community, as well as visitors.
Artistic talent has boomed throughout El Dorado for decades. Award-winning festivals and a dynamic arts and cultural center with a love of history and music all help to define our love of the arts. There’s a reason El Dorado was recently named by USA Today as the Best Small-Town Cultural Scene!
The Murphy Arts District, or MAD, is a two-phase creation of an entertainment district aimed at revitalizing downtown El Dorado. A 1928 fuel station and showroom for Model T Fords has been turned into a restaurant, flanked by a cabaret stage and a 2,000-person music hall with multiple bars, a VIP loft, a concession area, and an outdoor patio. The lawn displays an outdoor amphitheater that can accommodate 8,000 people with an adjacent seasonal farmers market along with a two-acre, free-admission playscape for kids.
In addition to a vibrant business and entertainment industry, El Dorado boasts several stops for history buffs. Long before the discovery of oil, we were writing the story that continues to be told today in the infamous Parnell-Tucker feud, which began in 1902 on the streets of El Dorado and is re-enacted each summer. In 1921, the Armstrong-Busey oil well changed the future of El Dorado forever. The history of the oil, gas, and chemical industry can be witnessed at the Arkansas Museum of Natural Resources in nearby Smackover. For a closer look at the history of El Dorado and Union County, visit the South Arkansas Historical Preservation Society, keepers of the Newton House Museum, the Union County Sports Hall of Fame, and the Gallery of History.
El Dorado has always exhibited a passion for the performing arts, from our early days as a Boomtown, when theaters were on nearly every corner of the city, to today’s busy calendar of arts and entertainment. The South Arkansas Arts Center features a plethora of performances each year and offers classes in art, photography, design and dance. El Dorado is also home to the South Arkansas Symphony Orchestra, the longest continuous running orchestra in the state. The Murphy Arts District schedules performances by musicians, comedians and performers of every genre.
The South Arkansas Arts Center serves the people of the bi-state region and promotes, facilitates and supports the ideas and forms of artistic appreciation, education, ability, confidence and cooperation for all age, cultural, social and racial groups.
The South Arkansas Historical Preservation Society has been dedicated to educating the public about Arkansas’ rich history for over 30 years. Its most important project has been the restoration and preservation of the Newton House Museum. Ongoing tours allow the public a glimpse into life in 19th-century Arkansas. Membership in the society supports the preservation of the Newton House Museum and the educational programs regularly offered under the society’s banner. Recent educational programs have included lectures on the De Soto Expedition, the timber industry, the War Between the States, African American genealogy, colonial Natchez, and regional archaeological discoveries.