TheatreSquared announces $1.8 million Walton Foundation grant, hires marketing leader

by Jennifer Joyner ([email protected]) 964 views 

Artist rendering of the planned new stage for TheatreSquared.

TheatreSquared has hired outgoing director of programs for the American Theatre Wing in New York City to be its director of marketing and communications, the theatre company announced Friday (Sept. 29).

Joanna Sheehan Bell will begin her role at TheatreSquared on Oct. 4.

The new leadership position is funded in part by a $1.8 million grant from the Walton Family Foundation, intended to help fund TheatreSquared’s expansion as it prepares to move into a new home, a 50,000-square-foot facility now under construction at 477 W. Spring St. in downtown Fayetteville.

“As we continue construction and the $34 million Our Next Stage Campaign, engaging a truly regional audience and securing multi-year support for our core programs is more crucial than ever,” Executive Director Martin Miller said in a press release. “We’re so excited to welcome Joanna to our leadership team, and we are profoundly grateful to the Walton Family Foundation for supporting TheatreSquared’s sustainable growth during this major transition.”

During her 10-year career at American Theatre Wing, founder of the Tony Awards, Bell oversaw programs including grants, professional development initiatives, awards, Emmy Award-winning media productions and national partnerships, according to TheatreSquared. She was house manager for the Shakespeare Theatre Company from 2003 to 2006 and program manager in education for the Transportation Intermediaries Association from 2002 to 2005, according to her LinkedIn page. Bell holds a master’s degree in arts administration from Columbia University. She earned a bachelor’s degree in English and theatre from James Madison University.

“It’s a privilege to join an organization creating such high-quality work in the middle of the country,” Bell said in the press release. “TheatreSquared is emerging as a national player in the industry, and I’m excited to help tell the company’s story, raise its profile and lead its audience and outreach expansion during its transition to a state-of-the-art cultural facility. I’m amazed at the vibrancy of the arts scene in this remarkable area, and my family and I are looking forward to calling Northwest Arkansas home.”

Joanna Sheehan Bell

The TheatreSquared venue now under construction is across the street from its current location at the Walton Arts Center’s Nadine Baum Studios, and will be designed by Marvel Architects of New York City and the theatre planning firm Charcoalblue of London. Construction is planned to be finished by 2019, according to TheatreSquared.

Marvel Architects’ previous collaboration with Charcoalblue for the New York theatre company St. Ann’s Warehouse won the 2017 AIA Institute Honor Award. Architect Jonathan Marvel began his career under Richard Meier, working on the Getty Museum and the High Museum.

The Walton Foundation announced earlier this year a $9 million matching grant toward the building project. The foundation also funded the design process with $3.5 million through its Northwest Arkansas Design Excellence grant program for public spaces.

The new facility will feature the theatre company’s first dedicated rehearsal space, staff offices, education and community space, in addition to on-site design and building workshops, eight dedicated guest artist apartments, outdoor public spaces at three levels, and an open-all-day café/bar, according to TheatreSquared.

Arkansas-based construction firm Baldwin & Shell will construct the facility. The company’s many projects include the new Spring Street Parking Deck and the renovated the Vol Walker Hall and Steven L. Anderson Design Center at the University of Arkansas.

The city of Fayetteville owns the property where the project will be built. The Fayetteville City Council in 2016 voted to approve a 100-year lease to TheatreSquared. Mayor Lioneld Jordan and the City Council earlier this year announced a $3.1 million commitment toward the project, and the Fayetteville A&P Commission committed $3 million.