NWA Council to create new regional arts service organization

Allyson Esposito / Courtesy

A group dedicated to improving the quality of life in Northwest Arkansas will oversee the creation of a new organization to help “expand access to arts, culture, and heritage” in the region.

According to a news release issued last week, the Northwest Arkansas Council, with funding from the Walton Family Foundation, has hired former Boston Foundation senior director Allyson Esposito to head a new ‘regional arts service organization.’

The new organization plans to support existing arts organizations, as well as to create a plan to attract and retain practicing artists to the region, and “showcase Northwest Arkansas as a premier destination for the arts, with the goal of encouraging additional public support, cultural tourism and economic development.”

“We are committed to elevating and supporting every member of the Northwest Arkansas’ arts and culture ecosystem,” said Karen Minkel, Home Region Program director for the Walton Family Foundation. “Whether they’re artists, community-based cultural groups or art institutions, this new organization will help ensure all these elements thrive.”

The need for the new organization was identified as part study commissioned by the Walton Foundation and conducted by WolfBrown in 2015 to study the region’s cultural needs. The report recommended a central agency to help connect and support the existing arts entities in the region.

Esposito, who will head the organization, has worked as a professional artist, arts administrator, consultant, and lawyer. In addition to her work with the Boston Foundation, she also worked as cultural grantmaking for the City of Chicago’s Department of Cultural Affairs and Special Events; program officer for Mayer & Morris Kaplan Family Foundation; and consultant for Deloitte & Touche. A dancer and choreographer, she is the co-founder and former director of Chicago company, The Space Movement Project, and co-creator and former manager of Outerspace Studios. She is a current board member of NCCAkron and former board member of Dance USA. She is a graduate of Miami University of Ohio and the DePaul University College of Law.

Esposito said she is excited about the possibilities in NWA.

“On my recent trips to Northwest Arkansas, I immediately felt the cultural vibrancy of the region and was blown away by the scale of ambition and possibility,” she said. “I experienced a rich array of cultural traditions, inspiring artists working in all mediums and forward thinking, groundbreaking institutions. I am excited to learn more about the people and organizations who make the area an exceptional place to live and visit, and to help build policies and systems that support and amplify this creative ecosystem for years to come.”

A bit more information about the new organization is available at nwacouncil.org.