The Windgate Charitable Foundation of Siloam Springs has given $40 million toward establishing the new Windgate Art and Design District in south Fayetteville, the University of Arkansas announced Wednesday (Dec. 13).
The district is an expansion of the UA School of Art’s sculpture complex that opened in 2016 on Hill Avenue near Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard. The district will have new buildings for art classrooms, labs and studios, and potentially gallery space. The school envisions it to be its touchpoint to the community.
“The district will bring together art, design and education, while serving as the central hub for the student and faculty artists and designers at the University of Arkansas and beyond,” according to a UA press release.
Establishment of the arts district, along with the August announcement of a $120 million gift from the Walton Family Charitable Support Foundation to the UA School of Art, is key to building a nationally recognized an arts hub in the Northwest Arkansas region, a goal that is shared by a number of community leaders. The UA art department announced its expansion to an art school in August. It is housed within the J. William Fulbright College of Arts & Sciences.
“This is a tremendous step forward,” Chancellor Joseph Steinmetz said in the release. “Through this partnership with the Windgate Charitable Foundation, the University of Arkansas will be able to achieve nationally competitive standing in the arts, which will in turn place the state of Arkansas on the map as one of the most innovative leaders in the global arts community.
“As a land-grant institution, we are charged with serving the public interest through outreach,” he said. “Thanks to the Windgate Charitable Foundation’s generosity, we will now be able to do this for our community in an unprecedented way. We thank the Windgate Charitable Foundation for this amazing gift.”
Additional space afforded by the new planned facilities, coupled with a planned expansion of the Fine Arts Building on campus, is needed to accommodate planned expansions to the school’s graduate program, including in art education and art history.
“The Northwest Arkansas region, as well as the state and nation, require significant investment in arts education, so this latest gift from the Windgate Charitable Foundation will help the University of Arkansas become a catalyst for that change,” Jeannie Hulen, associate dean of fine arts for Fulbright College, said in the press release. A search is currently underway for a dean for the art school.
The school also plans to deepen its relationship with Bentonville-based Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art, Hulen said. “Together, we are establishing the groundwork for future growth that will directly empower the local and national art and design community and have a resounding positive effect on the culture of the entire state.”
The Windgate Foundation in 2014 also gave more than $2 million to what was at the time the UA art department, and part of that money went to construct the sculpture facility around which the new district will be built.
The school used $500,000, along with $8 million from the university to build the facility, which houses studio classrooms and shops, according to the UA.
“Thanks to the Windgate Charitable Foundation, we were able to give sculpture a state-of-the-art, nationally competitive facility,” Hulen said in the release. “By providing art and design students with the resources necessary for synthesis, as well as guidance from invested faculty, the School of Art is able to cultivate creative thinkers and leaders committed to inventive problem solving through art and design.”
The Windgate Foundation is a private grant-making foundation established in 1993. It funds arts education initiatives and in the last 10 years has given to a number of higher education institutions and arts organizations, according to its website.
The $40 million gift for the art district is the largest single grant awarded by the foundation in its history, according to the press release.
“The Windgate Foundation is proud to partner with the new School of Art and to help it and our state’s entire arts community continue to grow,” John E. Brown, executive director of the foundation, said in the releaes. “Our board strives to develop and support the arts in many states, and the Windgate Art and Design District will be an outstanding example of the foundation’s highest ideals for the arts and education.”
Robyn Horn, board member of the Windgate Charitable Foundation, said she also believes the spaces in the Windgate Art and Design District will provide the opportunity to engage the community with programming that is free, open and accessible to the public.
“The studio and design space will serve as key components to the Windgate Art and Design District and will invite the community to engage with School of Art faculty, students and international arts programs,” she said in the release.