Windgate Foundation gifts $1.7 million to UAFS for art scholarship program

by Tina Alvey Dale (tdale@talkbusiness.net) 448 views 

Windgate Art & Design Building on the University of Arkansas at Fort Smith campus

The University of Arkansas at Fort Smith announced Tuesday (Dec. 10) the university will receive $1.7 million from the Windgate Foundation. The university will receive three gifts from the foundation —$54,000 for the Letterpress Program, $700,000 to be added to the Windgate Art and Design Building Endowment, and $1 million to establish the Windgate Art Scholarship Endowment.

“Windgate has a long history of supporting visual arts, contemporary craft and art education programs across the United States,” said Patricia Forgy, executive director of the Windgate Foundation. “Our relationship with the University of Arkansas – Fort Smith began over 10 years ago, and as time passed, we could easily see the passion of the students and dedication of both faculty and administration, earning our respect and trust. We are pleased to continue our support in these areas.”

In 2013, UAFS received a $15.5 Windgate gift to build Windgate Art & Design Building, the university’s art gallery, workspace, classroom and office building on the corner of Waldron Road and Kinkead Avenue. The 58,000-square-foot Windgate Art & Design Building opened in 2015 and was the first building constructed as part of the university’s new master plan. It brought all art department programs under one roof. Along with several gallery spaces, the building has a 120-seat theater, a letterpress and printmaking operation, graphic design laboratories, spaces for photography, painting, sculpture and art history, and a sound booth.

At the time of the gift, the Windgate Foundation challenged UAFS to raise $2.5 million in private support to help establish an endowment for the facility. The Windgate Art and Design Building Endowment was thus created to promote the visibility of the art programs at UAFS and foster collaboration with other art venues. The additional $700,000 will allow UAFS to expand programming related to arts and graphic arts with visiting artists and exhibits; update equipment and supplies; and recruit top-tier student artists, a UAFS news release said.

“This investment will make it possible for our faculty members and students to achieve their goals and add to the creative scholarship and arts of our campus and region,” said UAFS Chancellor Dr. Terisa Riley.

When building an art program, the two biggest components are bringing in students and funding programs, said Blake Rickman, vice chancellor for university advancement.

“This (gift) will allow us to attract students … and really put us on the map. … It will help us attract high-quality faculty and visiting artists,” Rickman said. “This gift to the endowment shows they have faith in what we are doing at the university. It is a vote of confidence and support.”

The $1 million gift for the Windgate Art Scholarship Endowment will generate approximately $40,000 per year for scholarships for art students, the release said.

“The scholarships that will be generated by the new endowment will help our students to reach their dreams of obtaining college educations, and all prospective and current students will benefit from the art programming and outreach,” Riley said.

Rickman said by offering more scholarships to art students, the university will be able to attract more students and grow the department. There are 115 students in art and design at UAFS — 80 in the graphic design program and 35 in studio art.

The gift for the Letterpress program is a continuation of an existing grant. It will provide funds for equipment and supplies, student-employee salaries, student scholarships, and visiting artists. Letterpress is probably one of the more visible programs in the art department, providing students one of the best avenues to enter into a creative design field, Rickman said.

“What it all boils down to are the benefits received by the students,” Forgy said. “We feel it’s important to assist those who may not have the financial means to begin or continue their education. With the current strong leadership in place at UAFS, we hope to be able to help students reach their full potential and to see an impact both within and outside of campus as collaborations take place in the community.”

But Rickman said the gifts will have an impact that reaches beyond the university into the Fort Smith region as a whole.

“Generous gifts like these allow us to accomplish more in our vital mission of community engagement,” Rickman said. “With this spark as a catalyst, we will provide more educational access to the students of the River Valley, expand on the already high-quality programming in our region, and find innovative ways to engage our community partners. With dedicated organizations like the Fort Smith Regional Art Museum and the Van Buren Center for Art and Education nearby, we look forward to the new ways this gift will allow UAFS to complement and contribute to the expanding cultural economy in the region.”

Rickman said he hopes art students at the university can be a benefit to the Van Buren and Fort Smith art centers and both can join with Windgate Art & Designs to share and collaborate more on exhibits and featured artists. Windgate Art & Design acts as a portal to the campus, the UAFS media release said. The gallery is free and open to the public during business hours, and many groups on campus and off hold events in the space.

Windgate Foundation, based in Little Rock, is a private, family foundation supporting significant educational programs in craft and visual arts; funding for K-12 and higher educational institutions for the development and support of the visual arts, scholarships, and effective instructional programs; and programs for disadvantaged children in Arkansas. Since 1993, Windgate has provided more than $763 million in grants in 48 states.

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