Walton Arts Center to announce criteria for new location

Ten months ago, after being introduced as the Walton Arts Center’s new president and CEO, Peter Lane told a room full of reporters that the arts center was near its capacity and that a new facility would indeed be built.

The next words out of his mouth, however, were, “And no, we don’t have a location in mind yet.” The crowd sighed.

The news of the center’s needed expansion was nothing new at the time. In October 2008, the Walton Arts Center Council announced the completion of a facility feasibility study which cited the need for $180 million in expansion and proposed a 2,200-seat theater, a 600-seat multi-use space, and a 100-seat black box studio.

No, the arts center is not going to move. New facilities would not replace the existing space, but complement it.

WAC facility FAQ’s website

“Clearly, location of new facilities is a very hot issue,” said Willem Brans, vice president of Arts Consulting Group, Inc., the organization hired to conduct the three-phase study. “And while we had hoped to make a more specific recommendation, we do not believe that there is a clear answer at this time.”

Brans’ team did, however, indicate that the most opportunistic location would be either adjacent to the current WAC facilities in Fayetteville or near the site of the Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art in Bentonville.

Tonight, many of those same reporters who sat on the Baum Walker Hall stage last April awaiting some insight into the center’s new location, will gather once again – with fingers crossed – in hopes that some more solid information will be provided this time around.

A media advisory was issued yesterday with a subject line of, “Walton Arts Center holds press event to announce criteria and timeline for new site selection.”

The time? 5:45 p.m. today. The place? The Walton Arts Center lobby. The news? We shall see.