Windgate Foundation makes $6.7 million commitment to Arkansas State University

by George Jared ([email protected]) 588 views 

The Windgate Foundation, based in Little Rock, sent representatives to the Arkansas State University campus Thursday evening to unveil the foundation’s name on the gallery they recently endowed in the Bradbury Art Museum. Chancellor Kelly Damphousse surprised the crowd by announcing the foundation had approved ASU’s proposal for a $6.7 million grant to build a new facility for a sculpture and ceramics programs.

“We are absolutely delighted to announce this historic gift to Arkansas State University,” Damphousse told the audience. “Windgate Foundation has a long record of generous support for the arts in Arkansas, and this gift dramatically raises their commitment to a new level at A-State.”

The gift is the largest single gift to the arts in the 109-year history of the school. The funded proposal is for construction of what the university hopes to call the “Windgate Center for Three-Dimensional Arts.” The ASU Board of Trustees will have to officially name the center.

The grant award is in response to a proposal prepared by sculptor John J. Salvest, professor of art in the Department of Art + Design, and Les Christensen, director of the Bradbury Art Museum. The new building will be the answer to a well-documented need for studio and exhibition space for sculpture and ceramics, often referenced in the art world as the 3-D arts, according to the school.

The new Windgate facility’s studio and work areas are anticipated to total approximately 20,000 square feet, almost four times the space available in the Fine Arts Annex.

The new building will include separate large studio classrooms for sculpture and ceramics programs, as well as common woodworking and metal fabrication shops. Also included will be faculty and studio specialist offices, advanced undergraduate studios, and a student exhibition and project gallery dedicated to three-dimensional art. A partially-covered, shared, exterior yard will be adjacent to the classrooms.

Plans are for the university to transfer the current 3-D program to the new facility from its current location in the Fine Arts Annex, a 1936 building that once housed the university’s Print Shop and classrooms before the ceramics and sculpture programs moved there in the 1980s. Drawing and painting studios will continue to be housed in the Fine Arts Center.

Temma Balducci, chair of the Department of Art + Design, noted the potential for increased enrollment in 3-D courses, improved community outreach and involvement, and additional internships opportunities with other institutions and industries, and interdisciplinary initiatives on campus.

“We are proud to be partnering with Arkansas State’s Department of Art + Design. Their faculty is very engaged and enthusiastic, and we know the students will benefit greatly from this improved facility,” Windgate Foundation Board Chair Robyn Horn said.

The Windgate Foundation’s gift is among the largest single gifts to an academic program in A-State history. The largest was from the Donald W. Reynolds Foundation for construction of the Donald W. Reynolds Health Sciences Center, followed by a gift from Neil Griffin of Kerrville, Texas, which resulted in the naming of the Neil Griffin College of Business last spring. The Windgate Foundation’s gift also is the second largest private commitment ever recorded toward construction of a new academic building.

As director of the Bradbury Art Museum, Christensen has been stepping up the emphasis on outreach to area junior and senior high students, he said. The new facility will create even more ways to build interest in a wider array of art education opportunities. Art classes offered by local K-12 schools generally are more focused on 2-D media such as drawing and painting.

“For many young artists, their first introduction to the possibility of three-dimensional self-expression comes as a university undergraduate,” Christensen said. “Many students, once made aware that visual art is not exclusively two-dimensional, flourish and grow in new ways, some ultimately preferring the challenge of manipulating materials in space.”

The Windgate Charitable Foundation is a private grant-making foundation established in 1993. Its principal goal is to fund projects that strengthen marriage and family relationships, promote art and craft education, support youth programs and K-12 education, and assist Christian higher education.