This major milestone in the construction process signals the incredible progress and expansion of the Windgate Art and Design District located in the heart of south Fayetteville.
“It is wonderful to celebrate the placement of the last steel beam in the new Windgate Art and Design Center,” said interim Chancellor Charles F. Robinson. “This center will create more space for interdisciplinary innovation and collaboration between our students, staff and faculty. Our community and entire state stand to benefit from the exciting progress happening in arts education at the U of A.”
Prior to placing the final steel beam students, faculty, staff and the community were invited to sign the beam commemorating this special moment in the school’s history.
On the day of the ceremony, attendees were able to see the signatures of future artists, designers and scholars, university and community leaders and School of Art leaders, faculty and staff on all sides of the beam.
Todd Shields, dean of the Fulbright College of Arts and Science, which is home to the School of Art, said signing the beam was incredibly meaningful.
“It was my honor to be one of the folks who signed the final steel beam before it was officially placed,” he said. “This topping out ceremony brings us a big step closer to being able to move into this beautiful place where all will belong, create and thrive.”
After remarks were made by Robinson and Jeannie Hulen, associate dean of fine arts for Fulbright College, the topping out ceremony was concluded when the final signed beam was lifted into the sky and secured on the fourth story of the new building.
“It will be a beautiful facility — but also so much more,” Hulen said. “It will be a home to our students, a home to the School of Art and a home to our community. And it will be a vibrant hub where teaching, research and outreach will intersect in ways that will benefit our students, community and beyond for years to come.”
The new Windgate Art and Design Center is coming to life thanks to the Windgate Charitable Support Foundation. In 2017, the School of Art received a transformational $40 million gift from the foundation that created the Windgate Art and Design District bringing together art, design and education.
“We can now see the full ‘bones’ of the new building with the last, signed beam lifted into place,” said Patricia Forgy, executive director of the Windgate Foundation. “Before we know it, we will be celebrating the completion of this superb facility, which will be guided by dedicated and enthusiastic School of Art leaders, faculty and staff, powered by creative thinkers and innovative problem solvers, and shared with the entire community.”
The Windgate Art and Design Center will be open to the community and begin classes in spring 2023.
The center will house the studio art program areas in ceramics, drawing, painting, photography, printmaking and their M.F.A. and B.F.A. studios, as well as the graphic design program and their new graduate M.Des. degree. In addition, the building will feature a design clinic that will collaborate with community partners, a print lab and a coffee bar to serve the students, faculty and community.
“We look forward to inviting everyone into this space soon,” said Gerry Snyder, executive director of the School of Art. “Building a 154,000-square-foot state-of-the-art building is an extraordinary task; taking a moment to celebrate milestones such as this reminds us of how far we have come and the incredible opportunities we are building for students, faculty and the community.”
Snyder also added his deep appreciation for the Windgate Foundation.
“Thanks to their generosity and continued support, they are transforming arts education in Arkansas and positioning the School of Art as a leader and a destination for the study of art.”
Earlier this year, the Windgate Foundation gave an additional $30 million partial challenge grant to the School of Art supporting Phase II of the art and design district.
Phase II will complete the Windgate Art and Design District with a new 58,000-square-foot Windgate Gallery and Foundations Building. The building will be situated adjacent to the new Windgate Studio and Design Center and Sculpture facility, providing the students with state-of-the-art facilities in a central location.
It will house the school’s public galleries, the foundation program, Idea Fabrication Lab, Arts and Entrepreneurship Workshop, a 250-seat auditorium and faculty and visiting artist studios.
“We cannot thank the Windgate Foundation enough for their amazing and ongoing support,” Hulen said. “The topping off ceremony was a great day to celebrate all the work put into the Windgate Art and Design Center and the bright future for the arts in Arkansas.”
A video of the Topping Out Ceremony is available online.
For more information about the Windgate Art and Design District or School of Art, please visit art.uark.edu.