The Walton Family Foundation provided $12.5 million in pacesetting grants to design and build the future home of TheatreSquared.
TheatreSquared Executive Director Martin Miller first announced the grants from the foundation at the Winter Meeting of the Northwest Arkansas Council.
The total includes a grant of nearly $9 million in funding to be released when TheatreSquared and the Northwest Arkansas community successfully satisfy a 1-to-2 fundraising challenge toward the building's construction. Just over $3.5 million was awarded through the foundation's Northwest Arkansas Design Excellence Program to support the building's design, which is now in its final stages. Renderings of the building can be viewed on a TheatreSquared website.
"These significant commitments are an incredible affirmation of the path ahead," Miller said.
The announcement of the grants to TheatreSquared was part of a larger presentation at the Council's Winter Meeting focused on the economic impact of the arts in Northwest Arkansas. Other speakers included Rod Bigelow with Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art, who talked about the museum's acquisition and plan to overhaul the former Kraft Foods cheese factory in Bentonville into an arts venue, and Peter Lane with the Walton Arts Center, who described the Fayetteville center's recent renovations and its increasing popularity.
"Generations of Northwest Arkansans who attend performances in TheatreSquared’s new facility will enjoy a transformative arts experience – enhancing our region’s high quality of life and vibrant sense of place,” said Walton Family Foundation Home Region Program Director Karen Minkel. “We look forward to Fayetteville and the Northwest Arkansas community joining us to make this vision a reality."
The foundation's lead grants to TheatreSquare will serve as the cornerstone of a larger campaign that will enter its public phase in spring 2017. In advance of that date, TheatreSquared is finalizing lead commitments from major public and private funders to match the foundation's challenge and break ground this year.
Support from the Design Excellence Program helped TheatreSquared engage London-based theatre planners Charcoalblue and New York-based Marvel Architects to design the 50,000 square-foot theatre building. The building will unite two state-of-the-art theatres, rehearsal space, offices, education and community space, design workshops, eight dedicated guest artist apartments, and an open-all-day cafe/bar at the corner of West Avenue and Spring Street in Fayetteville. Outdoor areas on each level will include a patio on Spring Street, a second-level terrace on West, and a rooftop deck.
Plans for a new home began to take shape in 2015, when the TheatreSquared Board charged a special community task force to recommend a long-term facilities plan. The task force made a recommendation, which was unanimously approved by the TheatreSquared Board, to launch an exploratory process toward building a new home.
In 2016, the Fayetteville City Council voted unanimously to approve a 100-year lease on a 0.8 acre site at the corner of West and Spring in downtown Fayetteville. The new site is directly across from the theatre's current venue, which is a converted warehouse. The site is steps from dozens of restaurants and bars, blocks from the University of Arkansas campus, and across the street from a new 250-space garage.