UPDATED: TheatreSquared awarded grant for new theater in downtown Fayetteville

Artistic Director Bob Ford (right) and Executive Director Martin Miller (left) at TheatreSquared’s Tenth Anniversary Season lineup announcement event earlier this year.

Photo: Celi Birke

UPDATE: TheatreSquared’s choice location is the southeast corner of West Avenue and Spring Street where a 54-space city-owned parking lot is currently located. City Council members are set to discuss leasing or selling the parking lot to TheatreSquared at their Oct. 6 meeting.

TheatreSquared just took a huge step toward building their own permanent theater in downtown Fayetteville.

Artistic Director Robert Ford and Executive Director Martin Miller today announced that the company has been selected as one of the first projects for the Walton Family Foundation’s new Northwest Arkansas Design Excellence Program to receive “significant grant funding” towards architecture and design of a new theatre.

The company has used the Studio Theatre space inside Nadine Baum Studios as a place to stage their performances in the past, but with sold out shows becoming a common occurrence for the company, it’s time for an expansion.

“As one of the nation’s fastest-growing theatre companies, we have stretched the limits of the work we can create and the audience we can serve in our current space,” Miller said. “This program will help us use outstanding design concepts to build an intimate, permanent, world class home for professional theatre in our region.”

In early 2015, the TheatreSquared board charged a special community task force to recommend a long-term facilities plan for the company. This group enlisted London-based theatre consultancy Charcoalblue to study and assess the company’s current space.

The study, conducted over a period of several months, found infrastructure challenges, operating constraints, and an immediate capacity ceiling that will soon limit the company’s growth. Recognizing these challenges, the task force made the recommendation to launch an exploratory process toward building a new home.

“We’re just at the outset — but it’s an incredibly exciting start,” Ford said. “Access to this caliber of design, with full funding support, means that together — beginning immediately — we can start to envision a state-of-the-art home that rivals the best of the world’s stages.”

In August, TheatreSquared and the city of Fayetteville were awarded a competitive Our Town grant from the National Endowment for the Arts to explore potential sites and begin dialogue about creative placemaking.

Miller said that conversations with city leadership about potential sites for the new theatre are ongoing, and that the company does have a specific site in mind. Miller wouldn’t reveal that site yet, but he did confirm that the company is committed to locating the new theatre in downtown Fayetteville.

“Our history and identity have always been associated with downtown Fayetteville,” he said. “We’re excited to work with the mayor and City Council to formalize where we can envision this major cultural construction project will take place.”