Walton Arts Center asks city council for funds

Walton Arts Center officials asked the Fayetteville City Council for funds to assist in expanding its programming as members of the council toured the arts center Monday afternoon.

Officials told the council that the performing arts center has reached a wall on ticket prices and that earning more revenue will require an increase in programming through an expansion of its facilities.

“We’re looking for something we can plan for to allow us to continue the programs and services that we currently do, as well as to increase them, and to make them more accessible to the community,” said Terri Trotter, WAC chief operations officer.

The Walton Arts Center currently receives about 1.5% of the their $9 million annual operating budget from local government such as A&P Commission and Arts Council funds. Trotter said an informal inquiry to peers in other communities comparable to Fayetteville found that arts centers of similar size and scope receive in the neighborhood of 7-10% of their funding from local government.

Trotter says she doesn’t have a dollar amount or specific revenue streams in mind, but is hopeful to start a dialogue with the city about increasing financial support for the organization.

“We realize the city is obviously not experiencing the best economic time right now,” said Trotter. “What we’re asking is, what can be done? Are there new potential revenue streams we can explore?”

One potential revenue stream that has been discussed is paid parking in the city-owned Walton Arts Center parking lot. City officials have been discussing a parking resolution to address downtown parking concerns, and last month the council unanimously passed three resolutions expressing council support for a new parking plan in the downtown area.

Mayor Lioneld Jordan said he hopes that the city can come up with a parking plan that can provide a revenue stream for the Walton Arts Center, but believes there are a lot of other stakeholders that have to be considered.

“We have to look at this holistically,” Jordan said. “We’ve got to come up with a plan to address the business owners down there, the employees of those businesses, the University, as well as the Walton Arts Center.”

Jordan said solving the parking issue as well as addressing the Walton Arts Center’s expansion concerns would not happen overnight, but remained confident that a solution could be reached.

“I know we need to develop a good support stream for the Walton Arts Center because I want them to stay in town. They are one of the crown jewels of this city,” Jordan said. “I think in the year to come we can come up with a plan that works.”