The University of Arkansas at Little Rock ceremonially broke ground Tuesday for the Windgate Center of Art + Design, which university officials say will be the finest art and design education facility in the region.
Construction is underway on the center, which is scheduled to open for students on Jan. 8, 2018. A $20.3 million gift from the Windgate Charitable Foundation — the second-largest gift in the history of the university — makes construction of the facility possible.
In support of the project, the university launched a $3 million endowed scholarship campaign that will make a quality art or design education attainable for even more students.
In the past, local artists and designers needed to move from the region to find the art school experience that the new facility will soon provide in Little Rock.
“What we’re building will become a destination for students who might otherwise have left the state to pursue their dreams,” said UALR Chancellor Andrew Rogerson.
Keeping those students in central Arkansas is expected to feed the local creative economy and be a positive driving force in the Little Rock area.
“This is a game changer for the department, university, and community,” said Tom Clifton, art professor and interim dean of the UALR College of Arts, Letters, and Sciences. “The new building and programs that will be affected by the new facility have the potential to make transformative changes within the city of Little Rock.”
The new 64,600-square-foot facility — combined with UALR’s diverse and unique course offerings — position the university to become the center of art and design education in Arkansas.
“A building of this magnitude will help the already outstanding visual and applied design programs of this institution reach new levels of excellence, influence and significance,” Clifton said.
In response to the Windgate gift, UALR committed to raise scholarship funds. Joe Lampo, director of development for the College of Arts, Letters, and Sciences, called the donation a remarkable philanthropic act.
“This gift is an exceptional act of generosity on the part of Windgate Charitable Foundation,” Lampo said.
The Windgate Foundation board worked for years with the Art Department studying the needs and the feasibility of a new facility, said John Brown, executive director of the Windgate Charitable Foundation.
“We are proud to be associated with UALR and its Department of Art and Design and look forward to the academic and career success of their students who will study and create art in this beautiful new facility on the UALR campus,” Brown said.
Once completed, the facility will bring together applied design and art programs that are currently housed in three separate areas of campus.
Students will have round-the-clock access to the facilities, which will include a fine arts foundry, as well as areas for art history and education, blacksmithing, ceramics, digital fabrication, graphic design, illustration, metal fabrication, painting, photography, printmaking, sculpting and woodworking.
The Windgate Center of Art + Design will open up possibilities for new and expanded collaboration with the arts community in the Little Rock area.
UALR already enjoys rich partnerships with local organizations such as the Arkansas Arts Center, the Arkansas Arts Center (AAC) Museum School, the Arkansas Regional Innovation Hub, Art Connection and the THEA Foundation, said Mia Hall, interim chair of the UALR Department of Art and Design.
In the past, those organizations often offered workshops and classes in UALR’s well-equipped facilities, but space and building access were limited.
The new facility addresses both of those issues and presents new possibilities.
“We will have the only fine arts foundry in Little Rock, for example, and workshops can be taught in that space by the AAC Museum School, making this fantastic facility available to a larger community,” Hall said.
Unique art and design programs that UALR already offers include web design and development, illustration, furniture design, and jewelry making.
Planned new programs include 3-D modeling, animation and video game design.
Little Rock-based WER Architects is the architectural firm working on the project, and Nabholz and Doyne companies are jointly handling the construction.
Full statement from the Windgate Charitable Foundation:
“Our relationship with UALR and its visual arts program began in 1995. It has grown and flourished since then because of the art faculty’s talent, dedication to excellence, and passion for making and, in turn, teaching. The commitment of university administration to building a quality art program solidified our relationship.
“The Windgate board worked with the UALR Art Department for over a decade to determine first whether a facility was needed and then what type of facility would best suit the needs of the department and serve to foster its growth. We are proud to be associated with UALR and its Department of Art and Design and look forward to the academic and career success of their students who will study and create art in this beautiful new facility on the UALR campus.”
About the scholarship drive:
UALR has opportunities for donors to name spaces in the Windgate Center of Art and Design in honor of a family member, friend, company or organization. Donors also can similarly name individually endowed scholarships. Smaller donations will be used to build the general art student scholarship fund. For more information, contact Joe Lampo at 501-916-5106 or firstname.lastname@example.org.