From the Walton Family Foundation and the Northwest Arkansas Council this morning comes a press release announcing the establishment of a regional arts organization, helmed by the former senior director of arts and culture at The Boston Foundation.
Allyson Esposito, the as-yet-unnamed organization’s leader, has experience in both arts and arts administration. She’s a graduate of Miami University of Ohio and the DePaul University College of Law who, as a dancer and choreographer, co-founded a Chicago dance company called The Space Movement Project and managed its performance space on Milwaukee Avenue, Outerspace Studios. Esposito directed cultural grantmaking for the City of Chicago’s Department of Cultural Affairs and Special Events, served as program officer for the Mayer & Morris Kaplan Family Foundation, and as consultant for a professional services firm Deloitte & Touche. She serves currently as a board member for the National Center for Choreography — Akron.
The organization, the release states, “will focus on building the system-wide capacity of the region’s arts and culture organizations through programming to support leadership development, regional communications, professional development, convenings, small-scale grants and advocacy. It will create a strategic plan to attract and retain practicing artists and cultural organizations of all sizes and disciplines. The organization will also showcase Northwest Arkansas as a premier destination for the arts, with the goal of encouraging additional public support, cultural tourism and economic development.”
The goal? Attract talent, improve and sustain the roster of cultural offerings in Northwest Arkansas. (And, no doubt, use those offerings as a sort of recruiting arm to make Northwest Arkansas an appealing place to live for executives and employees of the region’s big companies — Walmart, of course, and J.B. Hunt, Tyson Foods and others.) Bentonville’s House of Songs and the Springdale-based LatinX Theatre Project were among the projects mentioned in the Northwest Arkansas Council’s outline, a branch of the Council’s broader Greater Northwest Arkansas Development Strategy.
“As part of its 2020 Home Region Plan to establish Northwest Arkansas as a leader in arts and cultural amenities,” the release states, “the foundation commissioned a study by WolfBrown in 2015 to examine the region’s cultural needs. Based on extensive interviews and focus groups with the region’s arts community, the report recommended creating a central agency that would connect and support Northwest Arkansas’ arts community, a need that had been earlier identified by The Walton Arts Center in conversation with the arts community.
“Northwest Arkansas needs to keep investing in arts, culture and quality-of-life amenities,” said Nelson Peacock, president and CEO of the Northwest Arkansas Council. “Allyson’s leadership and focus on advancing the arts is a critical component of our strategy moving forward. The organization she’ll be establishing will promote regional collaboration to benefit local artists and the entire region.”