Legal action to prevent the Walton Arts Center from expanding in Bentonville has not gained much support from city leaders thus far, but the City Council will discuss another way to make sure the organization continues their commitment to the city of Fayetteville on Tuesday.
Aldermen Adella Gray and Brenda Thiel have proposed a resolution to authorize City Attorney Kit Williams to negotiate a new 25-year lease agreement with the performing arts organization, with an aim to make sure that the existing Fayetteville facility will continue to receive the level of programming that it currently receives.
Walton Arts Center officials have maintained that the Fayetteville facility would not play second fiddle to the new facility in Bentonville, but Fayetteville City Attorney Kit Williams wants more than a verbal guarantee.
From the resolution drafted by Williams:
We can ensure that the Walton Arts Center staff’s claims that Fayetteville would remain the hub for performing arts even after the Bentonville Arts Center is built will be true by memorializng them in a second long term Lease Agreement with the Walton Arts Center Council, Inc. The Resolution proposed by Aldermen Adella Gray and Brenda Thiel would authorize me to work with the Walton Arts Center Council, Inc. to create a replacement and extension of the 25 year Lease Agreement that the City entered into with the Walton Arts Center Council in 1994. This new agreement should include provisions to ensure that the Walton Arts Center on Dickson will remain, as Mayor Jordan says: “economically viable and artistically outstanding.”
Meanwhile, Walton Arts Center CEO Peter Lane reiterated the center’s commitment to quality programming in Fayetteville in a letter sent to Mayor Lioneld Jordan and University Chancellor G. David Gearhart on Monday.
“We have heard some concern that the Walton Arts Center’s expansion will shift all the ‘good’ programming to Bentonville. This is simply not true,” Lane wrote in the letter. “With the addition of a 600-seat theater in Fayetteville, the majority of our diverse programming will continue to be presented in Fayetteville.”
Lane went on to list specific types of programming that the center plans to book in the existing facility on Dickson Street.
“While we cannot predict what shows will be touring over the next 5-10 years, we see programming in Fayetteville that would include Broadway hits similar to Legally Blonde, Young Frankenstein, and Spring Awakening as well as special attractions like Blue Man Group and world-class artists like Momix, Vienna Boys Choir, Branford Marsalis, and Arlo Guthrie,” he wrote.
Whether or not Lane’s letter is the written guarantee that the council, or that Williams is seeking remains to be seen. We’ll have a better idea Tuesday night.