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New Regional Arts Service Organization Launches in Northwest Arkansas

July 11, 2019
Walton Family Foundation to Provide Start-up Support

BENTONVILLE, Ark., July 11, 2019 – A new regional arts service organization will help expand access to arts, culture and heritage in Northwest Arkansas. Incubated at the Northwest Arkansas Council with support from the Walton Family Foundation, the institution will be led by Allyson Esposito, the former senior director of arts and culture for The Boston Foundation.

“We are committed to elevating and supporting every member of Northwest Arkansas' arts and culture ecosystem,” said Karen Minkel, Home Region Program director for the Walton Family Foundation. “Whether they’re artists, community-based cultural groups or art institutions, this new organization will help ensure all these elements thrive.”

As part of its 2020 Home Region Plan to establish Northwest Arkansas as a leader in arts and cultural amenities, the foundation commissioned a study by WolfBrown in 2015 to examine the region’s cultural needs. Based on extensive 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.

The newly announced regional 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 also showcase Northwest Arkansas as a premier destination for the arts, with the goal of encouraging additional public support, cultural tourism and economic development.

“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. I experienced a rich array of cultural traditions, inspiring artists working in all mediums and forward thinking, groundbreaking institutions,” said Allyson Esposito, executive director of the regional arts service organization. “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.”

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. She 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, she is the co-founder and former director of Chicago company, The Space Movement Project, and co-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.

“We are delighted to have Allyson at the helm of the regional arts service organization,” said Kassie Misiewicz, founder and artistic director for the Trike Theatre. “We believe she has the right leadership skills, positive temperament, entrepreneurial spirit and creative vision to further cultivate Northwest Arkansas' vibrant arts scene. We know that Allyson will be a fearsome champion for the local emerging arts organizations and artists.”

Like the Walton Family Foundation, the Northwest Arkansas Council aims to advance quality of life in the region. In 2018, it unveiled its Greater Northwest Arkansas Development Strategy, which 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.

“Northwest Arkansas needs to keep investing in arts, culture and quality-of-life amenities,” said Nelson Peacock, president and CEO of the Northwest Arkansas Council. “Allyson’s leadership and focus on advancing the arts is a critical component of our strategy moving forward. The organization she’ll be establishing will promote regional collaboration to benefit local artists and the entire region.”

For more information about the regional arts service organization, please visit

About the Walton Family Foundation
The Walton Family Foundation is, at its core, a family-led foundation. The children and grandchildren of our founders, Sam and Helen Walton, lead the foundation and create access to opportunity for people and communities. We work in three areas: improving K-12 education, protecting rivers and oceans and the communities they support, and investing in our home region of Northwest Arkansas and the Arkansas-Mississippi Delta. In 2018, the foundation awarded more than $595 million in grants in support of these initiatives. To learn more, visit and follow us on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.

About the Northwest Arkansas Council
Established by Sam Walton and 30 other business leaders in 1990, the Northwest Arkansas Council is a private, nonprofit organization working to advance job opportunities, talent recruitment, physical infrastructure and quality of life in the region. Most of the Council’s more than 100 members are companies, and they include Walmart, Tyson Foods, J.B. Hunt Transport Service, Simmons Foods and George's Inc. To learn more, visit

Media Contacts:
Luis Gonzalez
Walton Family Foundation

Rob Smith
Northwest Arkansas Council