Construction continues on University of Arkansas art and design district

Windgate Art and Design District construction / Photo: Todd Gill, Fayetteville Flyer

A topping out ceremony was held last month in celebration of the last steel beam placed in the Windgate Center at the University of Arkansas’ new art and design district in south Fayetteville.

Crews have now moved onto exterior work for the 154,000-square-foot center at the southeast corner of Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard and Hill Avenue where classes are set to begin in spring 2023.

The anchor facility is part of the first phase of the district, and will house the studio art program areas in ceramics, drawing, painting, photography, printmaking and their M.F.A. and B.F.A. studios, as well as the graphic design program and the new Master of Design degree. The building will also include a design clinic for collaborating with community partners, a print lab and a coffee bar to serve students, faculty and the community.

The Windgate Charitable Foundation provided $40 million for the first phase of the district, and then added a $30 million partial challenge grant for phase two, which will include a 58,000-square-foot gallery and foundations building.

Windgate Art and Design District construction / Photo: Todd Gill, Fayetteville Flyer

The second building will house the school’s public galleries, a 250-seat auditorium, artist studios, a fabrication lab, and an arts and entrepreneurship workshop.

Expansion of the arts at the university took a major leap forward in 2017 when the Walton Family Charitable Support Foundation gave $120 million to establish the School of Art. It is the first and only accredited collegiate school of art in the state.

The school has recently grown from 300 to 500 students on average, from 36 to 55 full-time faculty members and now offers 415 scholarships amounting to more than $990,000.

“Because of such tremendous growth, the School of Art has been spread across 12 different locations on and around the U of A campus and Fayetteville community,” said Jeannie Hulen, Fulbright College’s associate dean. “Ultimately, to give our students the best, most collaborative and effective education, the School of Art needs to have all its programs, studios, labs, faculty spaces and student areas gathered as closely together as possible and closer to the community.”

The school’s 70-year-old Fine Arts building near the center of campus is also being restored and will serve as the home to the art history and art education programs, which officials said will allow each discipline to expand by adding master’s and Ph.D. options.