Windgate Foundation gift to aid UAFS art and design students

by Tina Alvey Dale ([email protected]) 918 views 

Artist Yatika Fields works with UAFS student Heli Mistry during an immersive week-long course guiding art students in the creation of artworks based on Mussorgsky's Pictures at an Exhibition, in a collaborative experience hosted by the UAFS Art Department, the Unexpected Project and the Fort Smith Symphony. (photo courtesy of UAFS)

The University of Arkansas at Fort Smith has received a nearly $8 million gift from the Windgate Foundation for student scholarships and internships, an artist in residence program and continued funding for the university’s art and design facility.

“This gift will broaden (our students’) access to professional and creative communities, and it is an absolute dream to be given the chance to build new ways to support them. Our students accomplish incredible things and often do so while managing many responsibilities. The direct positive impacts this gift will have on them is profound,” said Katie Waugh, head of the UAFS art department.

The gift includes more than $4 million in direct student support through a need-based university scholarship, $394,000 for academic program development and expansions; $240,000 to develop an artist in residence program; and $120,000 to support paid internships for emerging student artists and designers.

The $4 million for scholarships will be available to any UAFS student in any college and in good standing who is eligible to receive Pell Grants and who receives no other form of free aid (Supplemental Educational Opportunity Grants, Arkansas Challenge Scholarships, etc.). Those students will be able to attend the university at little to no out-of-pocket cost, a news release on the gift said.

“Tuition and mandatory fees for a full-time student at UAFS amount to $7,335 per year, with Pell Grants covering roughly $6,100 of that cost. Through the Windgate gift, the university will be able to provide the remaining $1,235 to eligible students, bringing the cost of their tuition and mandatory fees down to $0,” the news release noted.

If a student receives aid from an external organization, they will still be eligible for the scholarship.

“This is a tremendous opportunity to bring a college education within reach for so many UAFS Lions,” said UAFS Chancellor Dr. Terisa Riley. “Approximately 150 students per year need this type of financial assistance, and this generous gift from the Windgate Foundation will allow us to fully cover the cost of tuition and mandatory fees for those students who are facing the greatest amount of financial need.”

The fully-funded Artist in Residence program will be a first for UAFS and will allow the university to bring innovative artists and designers to the university and region to create new work and engage both students and community members, Waugh said. She said the university is “making quick work of this” now that funding has been confirmed. The university will begin the process of selecting the initial Artist in Residence soon with the goal of starting the program during the 2021-22 academic year.

The funding will support the program for the next three years, and the program will provide a competitive funding package to support extended periods of residency for a single artist or designer at a time, Waugh said. Residents will receive stipends, materials support and housing support.

“We’re seeking to engage artists and designers who have active professional careers and can bring new energy and expertise to our campus through the work they produce and the educational programming they provide,” she said.

Riley said the program will introduce students and faculty to diverse artistic methods and mediums, expanding their depth and breadth of knowledge.

The internship fund will expand existing options for studio art and graphic design students at UAFS. The three-year program will help provide financial compensation for the internships these students often conduct in pursuit of their degrees, Waugh said. Additionally, this funding can be used to support shorter-term projects, which will open the students up to a broader range of paid professional opportunities, she added. The nature and scope of the internships and projects are open and flexible. Students can work with faculty mentors to evaluate appropriate internship and project options, and funding will be disbursed as it is available, she said.

“We are so excited that the work and time our students expend in these experiences will be both academically and financially beneficial,” said Waugh. “This helps students establish a pattern and expectation early in their careers of being compensated for their creative work.”

The Windgate gift also includes more than $2.8 million dedicated to the Windgate Art and Design Building Facility Endowment. The building, considered a premier fine arts hub on the UAFS campus, was completed in 2015 and was funded with a $15.5 million grant from the Windgate Charitable Foundation.

“We are thrilled to be able to operate this beautiful, state-of-the-art facility and provide a maintenance fund that will ensure the continued operations of the building at the highest standards,” said Riley.

The additional funds for the Windgate Art and Design Building Endowment will help the university maintain the facilities inside the building, Waugh said.

“We want to ensure that our facilities remain an absolutely up-to-date, high-quality resource for students. Further, this fund supports activities such as the programming for our Windgate Gallery, which will be reopened in the fall,” Waugh said. “As we build our programs, develop new courses and enhance our degree offerings, access to these funds will be all the more important. This gift will ensure we can teach and learn in well-equipped spaces well into the future.”