LITTLE ROCK — The University of Arkansas Board of Trustees gave the go-ahead Friday (Sept. 7) to renovate a 1930s field house into a 650-plus-seat performing arts center and to name it for Jim and Joyce Faulkner, a Little Rock couple who gave $6 million toward the $17 million project.
The need for the UA to have its own performance venue stems from tight booking at the Walton Arts Center, where UA faculty, student and various musical and vocal ensembles have been conducting many of their concerts and recitals. The only other venue is the 60-plus-year-old Stella Boyle Smith Concert Hall, which seats just 238 for some 300 concerts a year. It’s time the university had its own updated performance venue, UA Chancellor G. David Gearhart has said.
The Faulkners are both graduates of the UA and donors to various music and arts-related groups across the state. She played clarinet for her high school in Benton. He played clarinet in the band in his hometown of Malvern. At the UA, Jim Faulkner was a member of the Razorback band.
“Sixty years back we didn’t have access to the arts like we do now,” Joyce Faulkner said when the couple’s gift was announced earlier this week. “Growing up in small towns, we did what we could, taking piano lessons, participating in choir and in band.”
She said: “It’s not often you can get in on the ground floor of something as special as this.”
“The Faulkners are passionate about Arkansas and about the U of A,” Gearhart said Friday. “It’s fitting that this building — one in which Jim spent so much time during his undergraduate years — will bear the Faulkners’ names, and will reflect their advocacy of education and the performing arts. Jim and Joyce are Arkansas treasures whose legacy will be a prominent part of this university for decades to come.”
Musical groups to perform in the new facility will include the University Symphony Orchestra, Concert Band, Wind Symphony, Symphonic Band, Jazz Band, Schola Cantorum, Concert Choir and Master Chorale. Theatrical performances will be staged by the University Opera, Music Theatre, Shakespeare Theatre and Boars Head Summer Theatre. The facility will also host the popular Summer Chamber Music Festival as well as provide space for public lectures, such as the recent appearance by President Bill Clinton, who delivered the inaugural presentation in the Dale and Betty Bumpers Lecture Series.
Gearhart has also asked the Fayetteville Advertising & Promotion Commission for a $1 million donation, an issue on the commission's agenda for Monday (Sept. 10). Opening an additional performing arts venue at the UA could bring as much as $1.9 million in additional revenue to Fayetteville from out-of-towners each year, Gearhart said when he made his pitch to the A&P.