UAFS to build $15.5 million visual arts facility

by The City Wire staff ([email protected]) 160 views 

A $15.5 million grant from a Siloam Springs-based foundation will help the University of Arkansas at Fort Smith construct a 58,000-square-foot visual arts building that will include a 150-seat film theatre.

The grant from Windgate Charitable Foundation requires UAFS officials to match dollar-for-dollar $2.5 million of the grant. Dr. Marta Loyd, vice chancellor for university advancement, said the UAFS Foundation will raise the $2.5 million for a building endowment, according to the UAFS statement released late Tuesday (Sept. 17) afternoon.

The UAFS Foundation recently announced it had raised $56.895 million as part of its “Giving Opportunity” capital campaign.

The UAFS statement also noted that Little Rock-based CDI Contractors will be the construction manager, with Little Rock-based WER Architects hired as the facility designer. The new facility will be located on the southwest corner of Waldron and Kinkead and is bordered by the Stubblefield Center, The Lion’s Den and Baldor Technology Center. A parking lot completed two years ago will serve the new building.

Scheduled for completion by the fall of 2015, the building “will also house gallery spaces, the letterpress and printmaking operation, graphic design laboratories and spaces for photography, painting, sculpture and art history,” noted the UAFS statement. “The freshmen foundations program – which includes basic courses in drawing, 2D design, 3D design, typography and digital imaging – will also be housed there.

“Our campus has long needed a building designated for these programs,” said UAFS Chancellor Dr. Paul Beran. “This will provide our students with arts-related classrooms and studios in a purposefully designed facility, bringing a cohesiveness to the visual arts programs for students that has not been physically possible with varied locations.”

Beran said the need for a visual arts building arose during discussions for a new campus master plan.

“It’s time to move forward and provide new, quality space to house these visual arts programs, but we also see this facility as one that will further enhance the University’s role in the arts in this region,” Beran noted in the statement.

Beran told The City Wire that “anonymous sources,” who believed in “what we were doing to enhance the quality of life” in the region, helped facilitate the connection with Windgate. Beran added that the arts faculty over several decades at then-Westark Community College and now UAFS have been "very successful in that area (arts studies) in a real understated kind of way.”

Having the funding and support come together was a well-deserved recognition of the consistency of the arts programs, and also humbling, Beran said.

“It just creates this phenomenal opportunity to bring this (arts programs) all together under one building. … Whenever you get this kind of gift, you’re really amazed at the philanthropy of others,” he explained.

According to the UAFS statement, there are now enrolled about 120 graphic design majors and 50 studio art majors, “with hundreds of students on campus served by the general education courses which will be offered in the new building.”

Dr. Henry Rinne, dean of the College of Humanities and Social Sciences, said the facility will also support community programs.

“This new building will become a center for the arts, with three major galleries to showcase our student work as well as art shows of regional and national importance. We will also be able to expand and offer additional workshops that are open to the community.”

According to information from the Association of Public Television Stations, the Windgate Charitable Foundation “supports programs focused on strengthening marriage and healthy relationships, serving children and providing Christian higher education. The Foundation also supports programs focused on arts and crafts, as well as on art history.”