Windgate Makes Record $6.7 Million Gift for 3-D Arts Facility
JONESBORO – Education in the arts at Arkansas State University is taking on a new dimension.
Representatives of Windgate Foundation, based in Little Rock, came to campus Thursday evening to unveil the foundation's name on the gallery they recently endowed in Bradbury Art Museum.
Moments later, as arts patrons attending the event gasped with joy, Chancellor Kelly Damphousse surprised the crowd by announcing Windgate Foundation has approved A-State's proposal for a $6.7 million grant to build a new facility for sculpture and ceramics programs.
"We are absolutely delighted to announce this historic gift to Arkansas State University," Damphousse told the audience. "Windgate Foundation has a long record of generous support for the arts in Arkansas, and this gift dramatically raises their commitment to a new level at A-State."
The $6.7 million gift is the largest single gift to the arts in the 109-year history of Arkansas State University.
The funded proposal is for construction of what the university will propose to call the "Windgate Center for Three-Dimensional Arts," subject to a formal resolution by the institution's Board of Trustees, which names all campus buildings.
The grant award is in response to a proposal prepared by sculptor John J. Salvest, professor of art in the Department of Art + Design, and Les Christensen, director of Bradbury Art Museum.
Robyn Horn, board chair, and other Windgate Foundation representatives came for the previously announced gallery unveiling, and they clearly enjoyed the enthusiastic reaction from A-State and area arts patrons when they learned the primary reason for the donor's visit.
"We are proud to be partnering with Arkansas State's Department of Art + Design," Horn commented. "Their faculty is very engaged and enthusiastic, and we know the students will benefit greatly from this improved facility."
The new building will be the answer to a well-documented need for studio and exhibition space for sculpture and ceramics, often referenced in the art world as the 3-D arts.
The Windgate Foundation's gift is among the largest single gifts to an academic program in A-State history. The largest was from the Donald W. Reynolds Foundation for construction of the Donald W. Reynolds Health Sciences Center, followed by a gift from Neil Griffin of Kerrville, Texas, which resulted in the naming of the Neil Griffin College of Business last spring. Windgate Foundation's gift also is the second largest private commitment ever recorded toward construction of a new academic building.
Faculty members are enthused not just about a new building, but even more so about the opportunities it presents.
"Among the many exciting things about three-dimensional art today are all of the new methods and materials now available," Salvest explained. "Our program has long been hampered by a lack of space which prohibited the introduction of additional techniques and equipment. With the four to five-fold increase in square footage in the new building, ceramics professor Bill Rowe and I will be able to expand the range of materials and processes we offer in our classes."
The new facility will directly benefit students who study art at Arkansas State in new ways.
"Thanks to the increased space made possible by the generosity of the Windgate Foundation, exhibition galleries and private studios for sculpture and ceramics students will be available for the first time," Salvest added. "That, along with the state of the art classrooms, will be an amazing recruitment and retention tool."
As director of the Bradbury Art Museum, Christensen has been stepping up the emphasis on outreach to area junior and senior high students. The new Windgate facility will create even more ways to build interest in a wider array of art education opportunities. Art classes offered by local K-12 schools generally are more focused on 2-D media such as drawing and painting.
"For many young artists, their first introduction to the possibility of three-dimensional self-expression comes as a university undergraduate," Christensen said. "Many students, once made aware that visual art is not exclusively two-dimensional, flourish and grow in new ways, some ultimately preferring the challenge of manipulating materials in space."
Plans are for the university to transfer the current 3-D program to the new facility from its current location in the Fine Arts Annex, a 1936 building that once housed the university's Print Shop and classrooms before the ceramics and sculpture moved there in the 1980s. Drawing and painting studios will continue to be housed in the Fine Arts Center.
"From the moment I first walked through the ceramic and sculpture areas it has been my goal to facilitate new studios and class spaces for students," added Dr. Carl Cates, dean of the College of Liberal Arts and Communication. "This support from the Windgate Foundation changes the quality of our students' learning and lives. The students and faculty of the College of Liberal Arts and Communication thank everyone involved for making this possible."
The new Windgate facility's studio and work areas are anticipated to total approximately 20,000 square feet, almost four times the space available in the Fine Arts Annex.
Temma Balducci, chair of the Department of Art + Design, noted the potential for increased enrollment in 3-D courses, improved community outreach and involvement, and additional internships opportunities with other institutions and industries, and interdisciplinary initiatives on campus.
"This generous gift from the Windgate Foundation for a state-of-the-art center for ceramics and sculpture will allow the department to introduce more students and the community to the three-dimensional arts," Balducci added. “It’s an exciting time for us and we are thrilled about the possibilities, especially for outreach and recruiting.”
The new building will include separate large studio classrooms for sculpture and ceramics programs, as well as common woodworking and metal fabrication shops. Also included will be faculty and studio specialist offices, advanced undergraduate studios, and a student exhibition and project gallery dedicated to three-dimensional art. A partially-covered, shared, exterior yard will be adjacent to the classrooms.
The Windgate Charitable Foundation is a private grant-making foundation established in 1993. Its principal goal is to fund projects that strengthen marriage and family relationships, promote art and craft education, support youth programs and K-12 education, and assist Christian higher education.
For additional information, one may contact the Department of Art + Design at (870) 972-3050.
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