If the Fayetteville City Council votes to take legal action against the Walton Arts Center’s board of directors, it will not be a tag-team effort.
In a letter sent to Mayor Lioneld Jordan on Friday, University of Arkansas Chancellor David Gearhart made it clear that he is not upset about the Walton Arts Center’s expansion plans. If fact, he said, the university is excited and supportive of the board’s decision to build a 2,200-seat theater in Bentonville.
“The University believes this expansion will strengthen the overall operations of the Walton Arts Center,” said Gearhart in the letter, “and will create a positive synergy and enhance the level of regional cooperation throughout Northwest Arkansas that is vital to us all.”
The letter was likely a reaction to recent news that Fayetteville City Attorney Kit Williams is drafting a resolution to legally block the Walton Arts Center from expanding in Bentonville.
In a memo issued last week, Williams reminded Mayor Jordan that, in his legal opinion, the Walton Arts Center board would first need the approval of the city and the university before expanding anywhere outside of Fayetteville. By rejecting the City of Fayetteville’s expansion proposal, Williams believes the board has violated a “fiduciary duty” it owes the two entities which formed the arts center in 1986.
Regardless, the university clearly has no ill will towards the arts center’s board members.
“The university believes that any discussion of litigation is counterproductive and inconsistent with the best interests of the Walton Arts Center,” said Gearhart. “The university would not support any litigation and opposes any such action.”
According to Tracie Dungan of NWAOnline, Ward 1 council members Brenda Thiel and Adella Gray have offered to co-sponsor Williams’ resolution. The resolution, which likely won’t go to the council until late December, would need five votes to pass.
The full letter: (Source: City of Fayetteville)
Dear Mayor Jordan:
In light of recent public discussion, I would like to share with you the views of the University of Arkansas regarding the Walton Arts Center’s recent announcement.
As you know, the University and the City have been long-term partners in supporting the Walton Arts Center over the years, and we remain committed to our partnership in maintaining and expanding artistic and cultural programming in Fayetteville. The University is excited by the recent announcement that the Walton Arts Center will add a 600-seat performance hall in Fayetteville and believes this decision will expand opportunities for additional programming and activities in Fayetteville. The University is also excited and supportive of the plans of the Walton Arts Center to expand its operations by constructing a large theater in Bentonville. The University believes this expansion will strengthen the overall operations of the Walton Arts Center and will create positive synergy and enhance the level of regional cooperation throughout Northwest Arkansas that is vital to us all.
The University believes that any discussion of litigation is counterproductive and inconsistent with the best interests of the Walton Arts Center. The University would not support any litigation and opposes any such action. We believe that recently announced plans are in the best interest of the Walton Arts Center, the University, and the City of Fayetteville.
The University looks forward to our continued support of maintaining a vibrant arts community in the CIty of Fayetteville and at the University in the future. Please feel free to let me know if you have any questions or would like to discuss this matter.
G. David Gearhart