A new Northwest Arkansas arts service organization is being established to expand access to arts, culture and heritage. The organization will be incubated at the Northwest Arkansas Council with support from the Walton Family Foundation.
The newly announced arts organization will focus on building the system-wide capacity of the region’s arts and culture organizations through programming to support leadership development, regional communications, professional development, convenings, small-scale grants and advocacy. It will create a strategic plan to attract and retain practicing artists and cultural organizations of all sizes and disciplines. The organization will showcase Northwest Arkansas as a premier destination for the arts, with the goal of encouraging additional public support, cultural tourism and economic development.
In 2018, the Council unveiled its Greater Northwest Arkansas Development Strategy. The strategy promoted the creation of a regional arts service organization to expand cultural opportunities and, in turn, retain and attract talent. In addition to serving as an incubator, the council will provide ongoing administrative support to the new organization during its development.
As part of its 2020 Home Region Strategic Plan to establish Northwest Arkansas as a leader in arts and cultural amenities, the Walton Family Foundation commissioned a study by WolfBrown in 2015 to examine the region’s cultural needs. Based on interviews and focus groups with the region’s arts community, the report recommended creating a central agency that would connect and support Northwest Arkansas’ arts community, a need that had been earlier identified by The Walton Arts Center in conversation with the arts community.
Meet the executive director
Allyson Esposito is the first leader of the new arts services organization in Northwest Arkansas. Her hiring was announced on July 11, and she comes with an impressive resume.
Esposito is a professional artist, arts administrator, change management consultant and lawyer. Most recently, she served as senior director of arts and culture for The Boston Foundation.
Esposito previously worked as director of 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, Esposito is the co-founder and former director of The Space Movement Project and 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.
“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,” Esposito 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.”
& strategic planning
People across Northwest Arkansas will be working with Allyson Esposito as she goes about developing, articulating, and implementing the new organization’s mission. She’ll build consensus throughout the region around the new organization’s name, vision, and values.
She’ll work with a board of directors and regional stakeholders in a robust strategic planning and community engagement process.
Pictured at the top: The new regional arts services organization will look to work with many Northwest Arkansas arts-focused organizations, including The House of Songs, which opened in Bentonville in 2017. The House of Songs brings musicians and songwriters from all over the world to Northwest Arkansas where they collaborate with locals artists.