WAC board chair apologizes, pledges better communication, transparency

Jeff Schomburger


Walton Arts Center board chair Jeff Schomburger apologized to Fayetteville residents who “felt uninformed” about the decision to locate a permanent Arkansas Music Pavilion in Rogers, and pledged expanded efforts for improved future communication in a letter posted on the organization’s website Monday.

“As excited as I am about the AMP, some people have told me they felt uninformed about the process around our decision to locate the AMP at Pinnacle Hills in Rogers,” Schomberger wrote in the letter, which also appeared in the Northwest Arkansas Times newspaper over the weekend. “For that, I am sorry.”

Walton Arts Center president Peter Lane echoed Schomburger’s comments in an email sent Monday to Walton Arts Center patrons.

“Over the past couple of weeks, there has been a huge amount of dialogue about Walton Arts Center,” Lane said. “This underscores a deep passion in our community and we are grateful for that dedication and the people that helped make Walton Arts Center a reality over 20 years ago.

“As an organization, we recognize the need to always be responsive to this passion and to communicate with and engage our supporters,” Lane wrote.

Both Lane and Schomburger touted the center’s recent public input sessions, and a new initiative to post updates from WAC board meetings online as ways to improve communication going forward.

Schomburger said the arts center’s strategy to locate facilities around the Northwest Arkansas region in order to compete with larger markets in the south was a major factor in the decision to relocate the AMP.

“From a business standpoint, we want to ensure Northwest Arkansas, and Walton Arts Center specifically, can get the same type of entertainment as Kansas City, St. Louis or Tulsa,” Schomburger wrote. “We need more space to make this a reality. Our board made a deliberate decision to pursue a strategy of regional facility growth to meet these needs.”

Schomburger also reiterated the Walton Arts Center’s commitment to its hometown of Fayetteville.

“Renovating Walton Arts Center on Dickson Street is the linchpin of (the WAC’s regional strategy) as this facility is the cornerstone of our organization,” he wrote. “I was pleased that at our last board meeting we passed a motion authorizing staff to begin the capital campaign for our $20 million-plus renovation of Walton Arts Center’s Fayetteville campus.

“With the majority of the arts center staff and 12 of the 20 WAC board members living in Fayetteville, we value the character and artistic integrity that makes this community uniquely ours,” he wrote.

The board’s next meeting is at 3:30 p.m. Thursday, June 13 inside McBride Studio at the center’s Dickson Street facility.

Among the agenda items for Thursday’s meeting is a discussion of the Walton Arts Center’s governance. Walton Arts Center officials presented a draft proposal for a restructured board of directors to Fayetteville Mayor Lioneld Jordan last month. Under the proposal, which Lane acknowledged as a “working document,” the new governing board would include 20 self-appointed members. The board currently consists of five appointees each from the City of Fayetteville and University of Arkansas, along with 10 at-large appointees.

» View Peter Lane’s Letter
» View Jeff Schomburger’s Letter