Walton Arts Center receives $5 million gift for Fayetteville expansion

Artist’s rendering of an expanded Walton Arts Center on Dickson Street

Boora Architects

The Walton Arts Center’s fundraising campaign to expand its Dickson Street facility got a major shot in the arm Tuesday.

Officials announced the arts center has received a $5 million challenge grant from the Walton Family Foundation toward the $23 million expansion project.

“The Walton Family Foundation has been a generous supporter of the Walton Arts Center since the beginning,” said WAC president and CEO Peter Lane. “The Foundation’s participation in this capital campaign represents a strong vote of confidence in our future in Fayetteville, and the future of the arts in Northwest Arkansas.”

The grant is a 1-3 matching grant, meaning the arts center will need to raise $15 million from other sources to receive the funds.

Lane said, however, that including the $5 million pledge, the arts center has already received nearly $20 million in pledges towards the project.

That number includes the approximately $7 million the arts center will receive as part of the bond package Fayetteville voters approved for the project in 2013.

“I want to thank the citizens of Fayetteville who resoundingly supported our Yes Yes Yes campaign that actually kickstarted our fundraising effort,” he said.

Lane added that despite the promising start, sometimes the last bit of fundraising is the hardest part.

“With lead gifts such as this from the Walton Family Foundation, the Walton Arts Center’s campaign is off to a very strong start,” he said. “We are now expanding and intensifying our fundraising efforts to build on this generosity.”

The project is already moving forward.

Walton Arts Center’s board last month felt good enough about fundraising to approve a $15.9 million construction contract with CDI Contractors to begin construction, set to be complete no later than Nov. 2016.

The planned expansion will add 30,000 square feet of space, including a new and expanded atrium lobby that connects to Dickson Street, significant renovations and expansion of Starr Theater, expanded space for back of house technical and theatrical equipment, and new administrative offices.

Construction of the main lobby and Starr Theater will occur during the off-peak summer months of 2015 and 2016 to minimize the impact on regular programming and ensure the arts center has a full season.

Despite the planned construction, the 2015-16 season is already scheduled and will go on as planned.

Tickets for the season will go on sale beginning next week.