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UCA breaks ground on new center for fine and performing arts



Conway, Arkansas – The University of Central Arkansas hosted a groundbreaking ceremony for the Windgate Center for Fine and Performing Arts and announced a $3 million gift from the Alice L. Walton Foundation on Friday, Oct. 9, on the UCA campus.

Upon completion, the new Windgate facility will provide almost 100,000 square feet of much-needed classroom, studio, rehearsal and design spaces. Current plans for the facility include a 175-seat black box theater equipped with state-of-the art technology; a 450-seat concert hall; a percussion suite; a scene/wood shop; and more. The building will allow UCA to expand its arts programming and foster collaborative partnerships across multiple academic disciplines — visual arts, film, theatre, music and more. 

“In addition to providing a first-rate facility for our students and faculty, this building will solidify UCA as an artistic anchor in the region, a place where the arts are celebrated and accessible to all,” said UCA President Houston Davis. “By helping more students interact with and earn degrees in artistic disciplines, we will continue to graduate a workforce of creative problem solvers, critical thinkers and independent learners. In today’s world, these skills are more important than ever and are vital to the state’s economy.”  

The Windgate Center for Fine and Performing Arts is made possible by a $20 million gift from Windgate Foundation. Announced in January 2019, this remains the largest single gift in university history. 

“For over 27 years, Windgate has partnered in visual art education programs with organizations across the United States,” said Patricia Forgy, executive director of Windgate Foundation. “For us, the knowledge of the power of art, combined with our long-term partnership with UCA and the trust in the current leadership, made it an easy decision for the Windgate Trustees to support the new Fine and Performing Arts Center.” 

During the groundbreaking ceremony, Davis announced the second-largest gift dedicated to the Windgate project — $3 million from the Alice L. Walton Foundation. The purpose of the grant is to provide $1 million toward the construction of the Windgate Center for Fine and Performing Arts, $1 million to establish an endowment for ongoing facility maintenance at the Windgate Center for Fine & Performing Arts and a $1 million endowment contribution to specifically support the Arts Education programming budget at UCA.

“The Alice L. Walton Foundation is delighted to join the University of Central Arkansas, Windgate Foundation and other project partners in strengthening access to high-quality arts education for students and future leaders,” said a representative of the Alice L. Walton Foundation. “These expanded and modernized facilities in the heart of Central Arkansas will foster exploration and expression essential to preserving our dynamic and vibrant arts and culture community.”

“Gifts such as these from the Windgate Foundation and the Alice L. Walton Foundation illustrate the transformative impact of purposeful giving on our students, our community and our state,” said Davis. “We are incredibly grateful for these partnerships and the difference they will allow us to make today and for generations to come.” 

Part of the UCA College of Arts, Humanities, and Social Sciences, the Department of Art (now the Department of Art and Design) was one of the original eight departments when UCA was established in 1907. Today, more than 200 students major or minor in art, and another 780 major in the other fine arts and communication areas. Student enrollment for many departments has remained at capacity for the past decade. 

The Windgate Center for Fine and Performing Arts will be situated at the corner of Donaghey Avenue and Bruce Street and is scheduled to be open for the fall 2022 semester. Planning and architecture for the facility are by Little Rock-based WER Architects and New York-based Pfeiffer Partners. Baldwin & Shell Construction is the general contractor for the project. 

The Windgate Foundation’s gift of $20 million to the institution is a challenge gift, with a fundraising campaign continuing for facility, equipment and student scholarship support. Gifts to the building project are honored through the naming of specific spaces within the facility. These named spaces will remain for the life of the building. Those interested in making a gift to the building or to student scholarships can contact Gunnar A. Bartlett, director of development, at or (501) 215-1840.

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