Walton Arts Center Expands Access to Theater
Studio blurs lines between art forms and demographics to intensify cultural experiences, regional synergy
By Barb Putman, Executive Director, Community Creative Center
A woman and her mother sat down in the studio to spend a few hours making a clay bowl. The smiles on their faces were unforgettable, as they created – together. But it really hit me when the woman returned several months later, after her mother lost her battle with cancer, to thank us for making the experience possible. She talked about how much the piece means to her and how it will always bring back such wonderful memories.
That’s why we do what we do here at the Community Creative Center in Fayetteville, Arkansas. For years, our studio space has served as a vehicle for the community to experiment in a wide range of visual arts, from painting and drawing to ceramics and potter’s wheel. For some, it has been through our classes. For others – like the woman and her mother– it has been via our community partnership with the local cancer support home.
But, as the Northwest Arkansas region has grown – both in population and in cultural flavor with the opening of Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art, rising stars like TheatreSquared, the newly renovated Walton Arts Center and more – our opportunity is no longer just to expose people to studio art. It’s to enhance cultural experiences by bringing multiple forms of art together.
Four years ago, we began partnering with organizations like the Walton Arts Center and area schools to launch the Stage to Studio program. Busloads of students who take field trips to see a play at a local performing arts venue now have the opportunity to roll up their sleeves at our studios afterward. They create pieces of art that connect to what they've seen on the stage. Just like that, we’re building a deeper, more memorable experience.
While Stage to Studio originally focused on kids, support from organizations like the Walton Family Foundation and others is helping us expand these kinds of “bridge-the-gap” opportunities. We’re collaborating with local arts institutions and organizations to not only connect with more residents, but also keep the cost of doing so to a minimum. And, as our commitment to reaching out has intensified, the magnitude of the opportunity in front of us has become increasingly clear. We have a responsibility to children, just as we do to millennials and adults.
In 2012, Community Creative Center served 800 people, the majority of them kids in summer art camps. By the end of 2015, the number of residents served annually swelled to 3,300 through a mix of classes, workshops, camps, grant-funded programs and more. We’ve developed working relationships with 36 area schools, while growing the number of adults served to 600 in 2015. We’re on track to increase that to more than 800 this year.
The expansion of our Stage to Studio offering will build on that momentum. It really is about developing a regional synergy around the arts. It's about breaking down barriers between the arts, age groups, ethnicities and more to build a broader cultural experience. People and experiences drive truly vibrant communities. We’re honored to help connect those two critical ingredients.