UA plans new art and design district in south Fayetteville

The recently completed Sculpture Complex at the UA will become part of a new Art and Design district, thanks to a $40 million gift to the UA from the Windgate Charitable Foundation

Photo: Fayetteville Flyer staff

It has been a big fundraising year for the art department at the University of Arkansas.

The program received a $120 million gift from the Walton Family Charitable Support Foundation back in August to create the University of Arkansas School of Art, and this week, the department got another $40 million for another project.

The new gift, given by the Windgate Charitable Foundation and announced this week by interim school of art director Jeannie Hulen, will be used to create a new art and design district in south Fayetteville. The district would include new facilities for art and design classrooms, labs, studios, and possibly public gallery space that will intended to “create a central hub for all creative endeavors of student and faculty artist and designers at the university and beyond.

A University of Arkansas School of Art undergraduate works on a project in a painting and drawing class.

Courtesy photo

The new district will be developed near Martin Luther King Boulevard and Hill Avenue near the existing J. William Fulbright College of Arts and Sciences Hill Avenue Sculpture Complex that opened in 2016.

The UA is calling the gift “transformational” for the program.

“This is a tremendous step forward,” Chancellor Joseph E. Steinmetz said in a news release issued Wednesday. “Through this partnership with the Windgate Charitable Foundation, the University of Arkansas will be able to achieve nationally competitive standing in the arts, which will in turn place the state of Arkansas on the map as one of the most innovative leaders in the global arts community.”

The gift isn’t the first time the Windgate Charitable Foundation has donated to the art department. The foundation gave $2 million in 2014, $500,000 of which along with $8 million from the UA helped to build the existing sculpture facility.

The $40 million gift is, however, the largest in the history of the Windgate Charitable Foundation.

“The Windgate Foundation is proud to partner with the new School of Art and to help it and our state’s entire arts community continue to grow,” said John E. Brown, executive director of the Windgate Charitable Foundation. “Our board strives to develop and support the arts in many states, and the Windgate Art and Design District will be an outstanding example of the foundation’s highest ideals for the arts and education. In fact, this commitment is the largest single grant awarded by the foundation in our 25-year history.”

Though the new Art & Design District will technically be UA facilities, Windgate Foundation board member Robyn Horn said the idea is to create spaces for free and accessible programming that the public will be able to enjoy.

“The studio and design space will serve as key components to the Windgate Art and Design District and will invite the community to engage with School of Art faculty, students and international arts programs,” Horn said.

The new facilities will also free up space in the UA’s Fine Arts Center, which will help the school develop their graduate programs in art education and art history.

“The Northwest Arkansas region, as well as the state and nation, require significant investment in arts education, so this latest gift from the Windgate Charitable Foundation will help the University of Arkansas become a catalyst for that change,” Hulen said.

She also said the school plans to continue to expand their partnership with Crystal Bridges.

“Together, we are establishing the groundwork for future growth that will directly empower the local and national art and design community and have a resounding positive effect on the culture of the entire state,” Hulen said.

Plan drawings courtesy of University of Arkansas

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