The University of Arkansas at Little Rock will build a 71,636-square-foot visual arts and applied design building thanks to a $20.6 million donation Monday from the Siloam Springs-based Windgate Charitable Foundation, the university announced today.
The grant for construction and equipment is the second largest in the university’s history. The university’s chancellor, Dr. Joel Anderson, said the gift is “transformational” for both the UALR Department of Art and the institution.
Targeted to open in the fall of 2017, the building will consolidate the university’s applied design, art history and studio arts programs into one building. Applied design involves disciplines such as ceramics and sculpture. The building will be at the corner of Campus Drive East and 28th Street in a sloped, wooded area. It will be designed to achieve a LEED Silver rating from the U.S. Green Building Council.
According to UALR, the university serves about 1,000 students annually in visual arts classes, with 180 students studying visual arts as a major this semester.
The Siloam Springs-based foundation, led by Executive Director John Brown III since its 1993 founding, has supported the department since 1995. The process began in 2012 with a $70,000 feasibility grant from the foundation.
Brown said that visual arts programs create jobs. “We think STEM is great, but STEAM is even better. You put the arts in the middle of science, technology, engineering and math, and you’ve got the 21st century at your fingertips,” he said.
Created by a family gift of Walmart stock from Walmart executive Bill Hutcheson, the foundation funds arts programs coast to coast. Two years ago, it made a $15.5 million grant to the University of Arkansas at Fort Smith for a visual arts building that will open this fall. The foundation has also funded the arts-centered Arkansas A+ Schools K-12 public school initiative.
“For Arkansas, for this region, UALR is centrally located, it had the vision, it had the passion for applied arts, contemporary arts, and a lot of our grants are in that area, so that’s kind of our niche,” Brown said.