Counting It Down

Counting It Down

Arts writers look back on top 10 stories of 2017

“Not even the most optimistic among our circle could have anticipated back in 2005 that by 2015 TheatreSquared would unveil plans for such a remarkable community space. But in many ways, we’re just keeping pace with what’s turned out to be a singular cultural renaissance in Northwest Arkansas over the past decade.”

That statement from Martin Miller, executive director of TheatreSquared, pretty much explains why we keep doing year-end stories. We are living in a “singular cultural renaissance in Northwest Arkansas.” Not every community is so fortunate. And in the midst of the hubbub of week-to-week coverage, it’s good to slow down for a minute and look both ways — at where we’re been and where we’re going.

That’s the format of this year’s top 10 stories of 2017 — the past, the present and the future. We started each with a resolution, much like one would have used in high school debate. And then we set out to prove what we thought. This week, we’ll count down the stories from 10 to 6 and return next week for 5 to 1. We hope you’ll enjoy the results.

— Becca Martin-Brown

Free Weekly editor



Top 10 Stories

At The End of 2016

10. Babies To Watch

Two things you can guarantee about the arts in Northwest Arkansas: Something new will always be on the horizon, and there will always be growth in unexpected places. Last year, those included the Museum of Native American History in Bentonville; ArkansasStaged; Inverse Arts, a festival for performance artists; and The Unexpected, a mural festival in Fort Smith which expanded to Fayetteville in 2017.

9. Film Festivals

The Bentonville Film Festival continues to champion women and diverse voices in film, and the Fayetteville Film Festival changed its name but not its mission of bringing “the state’s film making community together with commercial opportunities and with the audience of film lovers that we have in our community.”

8. Fayetteville Underground

The Fayetteville Art Alliance made “improvements in our business processes that we expect to lead to a sustainable model for stability and ultimately future growth.” And a group of artists left to form Fenix Fayetteville.

7. Shiloh Museum

Regular visitors to the Shiloh Museum of Ozark History might be more interested in what’s going on inside the main building: Two new galleries have opened in the past two years, and the third and fourth were revealed in 2017.

But ask Director Allyn Lord what the biggest news was for 2016 — and 2017, for that matter — and she’ll tell you the renovation of the Shiloh Meeting Hall adjacent to the Springdale museum.

“It’s the biggest project since this building was completed in 1991.”

6. Crystal Bridges

Five years isn’t a very long time. In the life of a major museum, it’s practically nothing. But following a year of exciting announcements, experimentation and continued growth, Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art in Bentonville had a lot to celebrate at its five-year anniversary on Nov. 11, 2016, including 2.7 million visitors.

5. Miss America

Savvy Shields became Miss America in 2016, the first from Arkansas since Elizabeth Ward in 1982. And she’s not just from Arkansas. She is a graduate of Fayetteville High School, a student at the University of Arkansas and the daughter of Todd Shields, the dean of the J. William Fulbright College of Arts and Sciences, and his wife, Karen. She was Northwest Arkansas’ own Miss America.

4. Local Music

Northwest Arkansas’ biggest music festival, Wakarusa, landed on the chopping block in 2016, the final domino among Pipeline Productions failed events.

3. Springdale developments

At the turn of the 20th century, Emma Avenue was Springdale. In 2016, downtown Springdale got a whole new look … and sound … and future, and the Downtown Springdale Alliance is one of the driving forces behind a renaissance that includes a variety of arts, entertainment and cultural events.

2. TheatreSquared

In November 2016, TheatreSquared unveiled plans for a 50,000-square-foot state-of-the-art facility.

1. Walton Arts Center Reopening

The WAC — celebrating its 25th anniversary in 2016 — reopened on Nov. 19, 2016, after the 16-month renovation which included 2015’s “hard hat season.”

Categories: Cover Story