Written by Arkansas Real Estate
This week we chatted with Bethany Bobbit, Public Relations Manager with the Walton Arts Center. The Walton Arts Center continues to bring excellence in art, theatre, and culture to our area, and some very exciting things are on the horizon.
What is the history of the Walton Arts Center?
The Walton Arts Center opened to the public in 1992 thanks to the vision of community leaders, the board, sponsors, donors, staff and volunteers. The mission is to bring great performing artists and entertainers from around the world to Northwest Arkansas, connecting and engaging people through inspiring arts experiences. Over the past 20 years, over 2 million people have come through the Walton Arts Center doors to see Broadway musicals, theater, dance, special events or musical acts of all genres. Last year, over 40,000 students and teachers experienced the arts through one of the many arts education programs like Digging Up Arkansas, which teaches Arkansas history through an interactive theatrical experience to students all over the state --some in rural communities with little or no access to the art. Walton Arts Center has become a gathering place and a venue for special moments in people’s lives.
What details can you share about the second location opening in Bentonville?
Walton Arts Center has a regional, multi-campus growth strategy that includes an expansion in both Fayetteville and Bentonville. The most immediate need is to expand and renovate the headquarters campus in Fayetteville. Walton Arts Center developed concepts for a $20M expansion that will add nearly 30,000 net square feet of space to the Dickson Street facility. This includes an expanded main lobby and plaza that will add space for concessions, mingling, seating, more restrooms and a dedicated entrance and lobby for Starr Theater, whose seating capacity is expected to grow from 165 to 250. The expansion will also add much needed backstage space including a catering kitchen, new dressing rooms, more storage space for instruments and stage sets, more production offices and a maintenance shop.
Outdoors, the Rosen Memorial Rose Garden and Bradberry Amphitheater will be reconfigured to add event space, with access from the new lobby to the garden and the option of covering the garden for events. Bringing the lobby out to Dickson Street will create a streetscape that will further invigorate the entertainment district. And lastly, the administrative offices will be enlarged to house a growing staff and add conference room and support space. Coupled with the increased urban development in downtown Fayetteville and the decision to build a new City parking deck on the theater lot, the timeline for the Walton Arts Center’s expansion renovation is ideal. The expansion to themain campus in Fayetteville will boost the downtown economy and bringmore people, performances and special events to Dickson Street. The goal is to complete the expansion of the Fayetteville campus by 2015.
The location for the Bentonville theater has not yet been determined but will include a 2,000 seat hall with an additional 200 seat education center near the downtown area. Additional planning will begin in the coming year, with a goal to open the facility in 2018.
How does the expansion benefit the community?
In order to meet the growing arts and cultural needs in the region, Walton Arts Center is expanding the facilities, programs and services. The expansion provides more arts and entertainment opportunities and attracts tourist to Northwest Arkansas, fueling the local economy. And by creating better facilities with more space, the patron experience is enhanced and more opportunities are available for local arts groups.
The expansion and technical upgrades for the Fayetteville facility will ensure that it remains a premier theater destination. In addition, adding the campus in Bentonville will allow us to bring new performing arts and entertainment product into the Northwest Arkansas market. Key to the programming in this hall will be events like comedians, music and family entertainment. In addition, the venue will provide top of the line meeting and event space for the corporate community.
What programs do we have to look forward to over the next season?
The season is well underway with more performances in 2013! For Broadway, Catch Me If You Can, Memphis, Anything Goes and War Horse, which is on its first national tour, are all coming to Northwest Arkansas. The season also offers kids and family programming including The Velveteen Rabbit, The Little Prince and Popovich Comedy Pet Theater. For the young at heart, Potted Potter is a hilarious Harry Potter theatrical tribute that condenses all seven books into 70 minutes of fun. For culture seekers on a budget, our 10x10 art series is a great way to experience new and exciting art forms like Dance Brazil, Circa and the Artosphere Festival Orchestra, for just $10 a ticket! Winelovers and foodies love signature events like the annual Art of Wine Festival in June. And the arts and nature festival, Artosphere, presents free and low-cost children’s theater, dance, music and visual arts programs that inspire us to live more sustainably, as well as the incredible Artosphere Festival Orchestra. For more information, visit www.waltonartscenter.org and for ticket information, call the Box Office at 479.443.5600.