#2 Everything Is New Again

#2 Everything Is New Again

Theater, art, history find new homes

Courtesy Photos
The region’s premier history museums will see major changes in 2018. The Shiloh Museum of Ozark History in Springdale will open its final new gallery in preparation for its 50th birthday in September, and the Rogers Historical Museum will move its galleries to the renovated Hailey Building across the street, turning the current Key Wing into an education and meeting space.

Be It Resolved

The arts scene in Northwest Arkansas is growing in big ways and small, with new spaces under construction or renovation for TheatreSquared, University Theatre, the Shiloh Museum of Ozark History and Rogers Historical Museum plus the opening of the Momentary, a new space being developed by Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art.

The Past

“A few weeks ago, we stood below ground in what will soon be the trap room of our region’s new professional theater,” says Martin Miller, executive director of TheatreSquared. “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.

“Intimacy was our acid test for every space in the building,” Miller says of the construction going on south of the Walton Arts Center in Fayetteville. “In the new mainstage, the back row is just one row deeper than in the current space, and the front row is actually three feet closer to the stage. The new 99-seat studio space is made for performances at a human scale. And, instead of a vast lobby, our architects have designed a commons filled with nooks, terraces and comfortable corners. It’s going to be a great place to hang out.”

T2 expects to open the new space in the summer of 2019.

“The building won’t be quite finished [in 2018] — but walking into the new main stage theater once the roof is on? That’ll be a moment. To say the least,” says Bob Ford, one of T2’s founders and the company’s artistic director.

The Present

A $2.7 million renovation will give University Theatre the black box space its professors, students and patrons have always wanted.

“A number of years ago, the previous provost for distance learning offered the [Continuing Education] auditorium to us because it was not really being utilized much,” says Michael Riha, chairman of the UA department of theater. “We started to use it — it was a fairly antiquated auditorium — for graduate classes, so it was a great swing space.”

But when the Global Campus announced plans for renovation, Riha sought the help of Todd Shields, dean of the J. William Fulbright College of Arts and Sciences, and “he supported us.”

The “true black box space” is 50 by 60 feet and can be configured as everything from thrust to theater in the round, with seating ranging from 130 to 180 patrons. It has dressing rooms, technical spaces and a box office, and audiences will get to see it in April, when the UA hosts its annual new play festival. But Riha also looks forward to the space being used by other organizations, from Arts Live Theatre to the Fayetteville Film Festival to the Roots Festival.

“We couldn’t be more excited.”

The Future

“A typical week at the Momentary will offer a healthy mix of both visual and performing arts,” says Lieven Bertels, director of the new multi-arts venue under reconstruction in downtown Bentonville. “We will host a few different major visual art shows each year that will attract regional and interstate visitors, and we want to offer these visitors (and our local audience) a diverse and welcoming experience. With an intimate yet flexible concert hall and a multi-functional black-box theater space, we plan to produce and invite a surprising mix of concerts, contemporary dance and other performing arts that will complement our visual arts. We intend to collaborate with Brightwater Culinary College and hospitality businesses in the region to offer food and drinks that fit our program.

“We anticipate the Momentary attracting a wide and diverse local and international audience, who are interested in the art of our times.”

The Momentary is projected to open in early 2020.

Categories: Theater