Join Us For A Grand Reopening Celebration

A behind-the-scenes look at the magic that happens inside...

Nearly three decades ago, the City of Fayetteville, the University of Arkansas and private donors conceived of and built the Walton Arts Center. Now after 25 years, Walton Arts Center is ready to reopen their doors after a 16-month renovation and expansion project. 

Construction of Walton Arts Center in 1991

Construction of Walton Arts Center in 1991

Whether measured by entertainment value, artistic ingenuity, educational opportunity or economic impact, Walton Arts Center functions as one of the region’s most dramatic achievement of public and private cooperation. It took outsized dreams, inspired vision and generous gifting, and eventually it all came together. Out of a shuttered building was created an entertainment locale in the heart of downtown Fayetteville, a stage for Broadway stars, a campus for the creative and an artistic escape for the more than two million people who have visited the arts center since it opened in 1992.

Over the past 25 years, the population of Northwest Arkansas has more than doubled and the desire for arts and entertainment has grown correspondingly. The need to expand and renovate our main facility had become clear, and in June 2015, we kicked off the first phase of construction with a groundbreaking ceremony. Fast forward sixteen months, after a successful 2015-16 “Hard Hat Season,” and we are once again ready to open the doors and share our new facility with the community! 

We will host a Grand Reopening Celebration on Saturday, Nov. 19, which will include a Family Open House: “Behind the Curtain” from 10 am to 1 pm and an Evening Celebration: “Encore!” from 6 pm to 10 pm. This will be the very first public event in the brand new Walton Arts Center! Remarks and a ribbon cutting ceremony will take place just before 10 am. Light snacks and drinks will be available, and a number of family friendly activities will take place throughout the event—giving patrons a behind-the-scenes look at the magic that happens in a performing arts theater.

Open House attendees will get to watch Ballet Arkansas’ rehearsal for "The Nutcracker" 

Open House attendees will get to watch Ballet Arkansas’ rehearsal for "The Nutcracker" 


Open House attendees will get to watch Ballet Arkansas’ rehearsal for The Nutcracker in the newly renovated Starr Theater and experience the new backstage space, which will include makeup demonstrations in the wardrobe room, paint-by-numbers scenery in the loading dock, audio and lighting equipment show and tell, and much more. There will also be performances by Trike Theatre, Shannon Wurst and Fayetteville Old Time Music along with a few other special surprises. To top things off, a “Wow-Me” guided tour will take people from the orchestra pit up to the catwalk above Baum Walker stage where participants will get to explore the spotlight booth and newly installed theatrical rigging that allows for props to literally fly out over the patrons in the main hall.

Jazz artist Champian Fulton

Jazz artist Champian Fulton



This grand day of festivities will conclude with an Evening Celebration featuring the Symphony of Northwest Arkansas with special guests Delta Cappella, the VoiceJam 2015 competition winners from Memphis as well as Chicago’s Mucca Pazza. Attendees can stop by the comedy lounge for a few laughs or the jazz lounge for the soulful sounds of Champian Fulton, kick back and enjoy a number of acoustic sets, or kick up your heels while swing dancing alongside lively tunes from the Fayetteville Jazz Collective.

We hope the new Walton Arts Center will continue to be a gift to the current and future generations of Northwest Arkansas. With a grand community gathering space bridging the vibrancy of Dickson Street and a newly renovated two-theater facility—including event spaces for local artists and large-scale productions to bring their magic to Northwest Arkansas—the 2nd Act of Walton Arts Center looks to be very exciting indeed.

We hope you'll join us and help christen the new building at our Grand Reopening Celebration. 

Arts in Education Week

“All children are artists. The problem is how to remain an artist once you grow up” – Pablo Picasso

National Arts In Education Week: Walton Art Center SmART Teachers

Founded in 1996, Americans for the Arts has spent twenty years advocating for the creation of environments where arts and arts education thrive. In 2010, Congress helped bolster their campaign by designating “the week beginning with the second Sunday in September as National Arts in Education Week.” Starting September 11 and running through September 17, 2016, “the field of arts education and its supporters join together in communities across the country to tell the story of the transformative power of the arts in education.”

Walton Arts Center (WAC) has long been a supporter of the role of arts in education. In addition to impacting over 32,000 children through the Colgate Classroom Series, WAC also provides in-school support for teachers who encourage the inclusion of arts across their curriculums. These SmART Teacher Residencies provide more than 60 contact hours of arts integration instruction and 75 hours of in-school arts integration role-modeling. We are honored to partner with the Kennedy Center in Washington, D.C. and Trike Theatre of Bentonville, AR - both of which provide the teaching artists who work with, train and guide our local Arkansas teachers.

This past Tuesday, WAC hosted an orientation for our SmART teachers, providing them with classroom series information and professional development credit for the 2016-17 Season. Our teachers were given the chance to relax and unleash their own creativity with a hands-on clay making activity led by our partner organization, Community Creative Center (CCC). Instructed by a CCC artists, our teachers (and their children!) coiled, sculpted and stretched their clay trivets to life.

Walton Arts Center is always excited to encourage the creativity of Northwest Arkansas children and to inspire our community teachers to pursue their own artistic passions when National Arts in Education week rolls around each year. And this year was no exception!

Sip, Sip, Hooray!

Have a long week ahead of or behind you?  Come 'wine about it' with us at this year's 16th Annual Art of Wine Festival at Walton Arts Center. This premier wine and food festival will take place June 9-11 and it is sure to entice patrons with the world's finest wines and an array of artfully crafted local cuisine in a unique atmosphere. 

Like a good wine, the Art of Wine Festival has only gotten better with age. Since 2000, attendees of the event have enjoyed Walton Arts Center's exquisite display of delicious wines and food. Whether you go to all three days, or just one, this multi-day wine and food festival will not disappoint.  

A Walton Arts Center favorite, the Art of Wine Festival will feature hundreds of wines, dozens of local restaurants and live entertainment. Why book an expensive trip to Napa Valley when everything you would experience there is right here in Northwest Arkansas? 

The best part of it is that 100% of the proceeds from Art of Wine go to supporting Walton Arts Center’s arts education and outreach programs. These initiatives have been the cornerstone of the Center since it opened in 1992. Each year over 45,000 students and teachers from 30 school districts experience the arts through high quality live theater performances, workshops and in-school residency activities because of funds raised from Art of Wine.

Studies consistently show that children that are exposed to the arts are more engaged and score higher in other areas of their education including reading, writing and math. 

We have attended Art of Wine events for years and regard it as one of the premier events in Northwest Arkansas!
— Wayne and Diane Callahan, Walton Arts Center patrons and loyal Art of Wine supporters

Winemaker's Dinner- 

Dine and mingle on the same stage where Broadway stars and entertainment legends have performed. Enjoy an exclusive evening with a five-course meal and a large selection of outstanding wines. This evening also features one of the most unique silent auctions in the region. Bid on art, wine and other special items.

Uncorked: Friday Night Tasting-

Friday night is the party of the summer. You can choose from a selection of over 400 different wines from around the world and food from the area's best restaurants-all in a festive party atmosphere at the heart of Northwest Arkansas' entertainment district. So grab your friends, enjoy the tasting experience and discover your new favorite wine. This tasting features our exciting WINE PULL, where $20 cash gets you a surprise bottle of wine!

Premier Tasting-

The Premier Tasting is a grand opportunity for discerning wine enthusiasts and connoisseurs. For the price of an elite bottle, you can sample many of the finest wines in the world, some of which are not available except at prestigious wine festivals like this one. Featured wines may include Opus One, Dom Perignon, Honig and Mondavi. Guests will enjoy delectable, heavy hors d'ouevres prepared by the Northwest Arkansas' best chefs, and a selection of silent auction items will be up for bid. In addition, the popular WINE PULL will make its Premier Tasting Debut!

In case you still aren't convinced, here are three more reasons why you need to be at this year's Art of Wine event:

  1. You should come drink wine with us because it isn't good to keep things bottled up. 
  2. You need to come drink wine with us because life is too short to drink bad wine. 
  3. You ABSOLUTELY have to come drink wine with us because not only does wine get better with age, but we think age gets better with wine!

So mark your calendars and come wine and dine with us, we can't think of a reason not to attend!




Starr Theater is OPEN!

A much anticipated milestone in the renovation of Walton Arts Center: Starr Theater is open! This week, Starr Theater re-opened for the education performance, Digging Up Arkansas. Students from throughout Northwest Arkansas are the very first to experience a show in this newly expanded space. Education is at the forefront of what we do, and we cannot imagine a better way to debut this space than with our wonderful students and teachers that we strive to serve throughout the school year.

Children entering the new Starr Theater.

Children entering the new Starr Theater.

Prior to the renovation, programming opportunities were limited in Starr Theater due to inadequate backstage space. As the size of large touring shows increased, so did the need for backstage space, forcing Starr Theater to be turned into a storage closet for nearly 1/3 of the calendar year. When Walton Arts Center opened for the 2015-2016 season, the new backstage spaces had been completed. These new spaces include a large wardrobe room to hold costumes, wigs and makeup that were often housed in Starr Theater prior to the renovation. Adding these much needed spaces will allow Walton Arts Center to continue to grow and expand with the community.

Starr Theater during a large production prior to the renovation.

Starr Theater during a large production prior to the renovation.

Moving forward, Walton Arts Center hopes to use this renovated space to program, allowing the venue to function as a two-theater facility year round. Join us for the first public show in Starr Theater, The Strange Undoing of Prudencia Hart, next week. Below you can see the new entrance to Starr as well as the theater's new windows overlooking the future Underwood Family Plaza. We are so excited for the next chapter and to fully finish our renovation by November 2016. Hope to see you soon at Walton Arts Center! 

To learn more about the expansion and how you can Play a pART, please visit our expansion webpage!  

SONA presents "Masterworks II: Strings in the Spotlight"

On Saturday, March 19, the Symphony of Northwest Arkansas (SoNA) will present "Masterworks II: Strings in the Spotlight." This classical feast will include Haydn’s popular London symphony and a rare feature of symphonic strings in Elgar's gorgeous Serenade. Adding some spice to the evening, SoNA’s principal flutist Virginia Broffitt Kunzer will be the soloist in Ibert’s breathtaking Concerto for Flute. Also featuring members of the Ozark Philharmonic Youth Orchestra. 



Goodnight Moon and The Runaway Bunny come to WAC!

Walton Arts Center will soon welcome the Mermaid Theatre of Nova Scotia, as they present “Goodnight Moon” and ”The Runaway Bunny." Based on the classic children’s books written by Margaret Wise Brown, both tales feature endearing rabbit characters and inspire our youngest readers with gentle stories of bedtime, independence and growing up. 

Mermaid Theatre's signature, imaginative storytelling through puppetry will bring to life both stories on the Baum Walker stage.

With productions hoping to inspire families to share the experience of attending live theatre at an early age, Mermaid Theatre adapts well-known children’s books and works tirelessly to bring them to life on stage. By adapting such productions, they also hope to encourage reading among a younger audience. Each year Mermaid Theatre presents over 400 performances to 200,000 spectators worldwide.

Our Learning and Engagement Team here at the Walton Arts Center recently created a fun photo project with our very own Runaway Bunny, featured at some Fayetteville landmarks. Next month, our L&E team will host over 2,000 students in Nadine Baum Studios with an opportunity to be the first to preview “Goodnight Moon" and "The Runaway Bunny" prior to a public performance on Sunday, February 21 at 2pm.

Tickets for both the school and public performance are still available, click here for more information! 

Play A pART!

Construction on Walton Arts Center’s new Tyson Entrance

Construction is underway at Walton Arts Center! In April, another phase will be complete and we will re-open Starr Theater with the educational production, Digging Up Arkansas, followed by several other performances in May during the Artosphere: Arkansas Arts & Nature Festival. Following the Art of Wine Festival in June, Walton Arts Center will close its doors for the summer to complete construction in time for a Grand Re-Opening Celebration in November and to kick off our 25th Anniversary Season. Things are getting busy, but we are so excited for what is to come!

Walton Arts Center construction on Starr Theater

This spring, the new Bill & LeAnn Underwood Family Plaza will open and showcase public art in a park-like setting of natural beauty. A hammered copper sculpture water feature will be central to the space, surrounded by engraved, personalized bricks as well as commemorative bricks celebrating artists who have performed on our stage since we opened our doors in 1992. Bricks and pavers from the original building will be reinstalled in the Rose Garden to continue the legacy of our original donors. Newly engraved bricks located in the Underwood Family Plaza will re-affirm our community’s commitment to the arts, paving the way for the next 25 years of great arts and entertainment in Northwest Arkansas.

Personalized Brick and Artist Commemorative Bricks will be installed in the new Bill and LeAnn Underwood Family Plaza

We cannot complete the expansion without the help of our dedicated patrons, like you, and now is the time to act! In order to reserve your inscribed brick to be installed in time for the opening of the new Underwood Family Plaza this spring, we need all commitments by March 15th. Your charitable contribution to the expansion and renovation of Walton Arts Center will memorialize your loved ones for generations to come. What better way to show your support of the arts than by engraving your name at Walton Arts Center? Help us celebrate the new building and 25 years of world class entertainment in Northwest Arkansas by going to our expansion webpage to see the virtual tour and make your fully tax deductible commitment today!

Together, we’re building a better place to live.

To learn more about giving opportunities for the expansion at Walton Arts Center, contact the Development Office at 479.571.2759 or

Bring Your Shoes to WAC during Kinky Boots!

Together with KINKY BOOTS, we're encouraging local families to bring their new or gently used boots, tennis shoes and sturdy shoes for men, women and children when they come to see KINKY BOOTS on January 19-24. These donations go directly to the local non-profit organization Peace at Home Family Shelter. Peace at Home Family Shelter empowers victims of domestic violence to survive and thrive by nurturing their self-determination and courage; and promotes healthy relationships and communities through education, outreach and advocacy.

Inspired by true events, Kinky Boots takes you from a gentlemen's shoe factory in Northampton to the glamorous catwalks of Milan. Charlie Price is struggling to live up to his father's expectations and continue the family business of Price & Son. With the factory's future hanging in the balance, help arrives in the unlikely but spectacular form of Lola, a fabulous performer in need of some sturdy new stilettos.

The Peace at Home Family Shelter was founded in 1977 and was the first shelter in Arkansas to provide shelter and supportive services for survivors of domestic violence. The program started in a small house in Fayetteville and is now providing services in a new Donald W. Reynolds building.

Shoe donations are being accepted in advance of the show at our Box Office located in Nadine Baum Studios and prior to every performance.

KINKY BOOTS starts Tuesday, Jan. 19 and runs through Sunday, Jan. 24! Tickets range from $36 to $78 and are available by calling 479.443.5600 or visiting our website here. For groups of 10 or more, contact the group sales department at 479.571.2719.

Pianist Simone Dinnerstein On Sharing Her Love of Bach

Simone Dinnerstein began studying the piano later in life than most concert pianists. She dropped out of Julliard for a while. And she struggled for recognition. Then she scraped together the funds to record Bach’s Goldberg Variations – and her career took off. The album ranked number one on the U.S. Billboard Classical Music chart its first week out. Three subsequent solo albums also topped the charts. 

Simone Dinnerstein sat down to talk with us about her career and why she’s passionate about sharing her love of Bach...

Bach figures prominently into your repertoire. Why do you find yourself drawn to his work? 

Bach's music combines all of the elements that I feel drawn to in art - intellect, craft and architecture combined with poetry and humanity.

Does your playing of pieces like the Goldberg Variations change from show to show?

Definitely. The overall approach is pretty consistent but the change of instrument and acoustics as well as my own state of being on the night and the feeling from the audience all contribute to the experience being new each time.

Here's a short clip of Simone practicing the Goldberg Variations 16-17:

Does this passion run in your family?

My parents are real role models to me. My father is an amazing artist and I grew up surrounded by his work and visiting museums with him. In fact, one of his most significant paintings, The Fulbright Triptych, is currently on exhibit here at the University! My mother is an early childhood education specialist, completely committed to children and creating the ultimate child-centered learning environments. Both of my parents are idealists and not very practical people!

Who are some of your favorite non-classical artists?

Leonard Cohen, Bob Dylan, Nick Drake

Who are some of your favorite contemporary composers?

Philip Lasser, George Crumb, Philip Glass

Pick 5 words—that start with the letter ‘d’—to describe your music.

Delicate, Daring, Deep, Decisive, Dreamy

What has been your most exciting performance to date?

It's hard to pick just one, but possibly performing Mozart K467 with the Vienna Symphony at the Weiner Konzerthaus. Playing Mozart there felt unreal.

Whom do you define as a visionary?

I recently read “The Book of Strange New Things,” a novel by Michel Faber.  It was a very powerful book about being human and I would describe his writing as visionary.

What is the best advice that you have been given?

Many years ago, Mitsuko Uchida told me to get out of the practice room and start making money with my music. I think that – other than the real, practical implications of that – she meant to own my interpretations and go out into the world with them.

What do you hope audiences take away from your performances?

I hope that the music opens up something inside, that it makes sense of things in life that only music can approach.

Don't miss Simone Dinnerstein on Friday, Jan. 8 at 8pm. Tickets are only $10! For a chance to meet the artist, join us for the Creative Converstaion with Simone before the show at 7pm as well as the After Party at Cork & Keg immediately following the show with light hors d’oeuvres as well as a speciality cocktail, "Bach to the Future,” and live entertainment provided by Rachel Billingsly.

One lucky ticket holder will WIN a $25 bar tab!

Tis the Season!

If you haven’t visited Walton Arts Center for our Hard Hat Season, we hope that you can join us for one of our many holiday and family-friendly shows. From Rudolph the Red-nosed Reindeer and Polar Express to Home Free, Jim Brickman and the Sonos Handbell Ensemble - there’s something everyone can enjoy this holiday season!

We hope you can stop by our Holiday Gift Market in the Joy Pratt Markham Gallery. Sponsored by Walton Arts Center’s resident company Community Creative Center, the market is the perfect place to buy local art, crafts and gifts items created by some of Northwest Arkansas’ most talented artists this holiday season. Proceeds not only benefit local artists, but also support Walton Arts Center and the Community Creative Center! While in the gallery, please take the time to watch the virtual tour and relax before a show. 

You can also play a pART in Walton Arts Center’s expansion and renovation this holiday season by putting your loved one’s name on a brick or chair, giving them a gift that can be remembered for years to come. Your commemorative gift will let your loved ones know that your support in their honor is helping us build a better place to live. To learn more, visit

Starrlight Jazz Club Series presents Pat Martino Trio

  "The guitar is of no great importance to me," Martino muses. "The people it brings to me are what matter. They are what I'm extremely grateful for, because they are alive. The guitar is just an apparatus."

In 1980, Pat Martino suffered a severe brain aneurysm and underwent surgery after being told that his condition could be terminal. At the time, he was one of the most celebrated guitarists in jazz. After his operations, he could remember almost nothing; he barely recognized his parents and had no memory of his guitar or his career. He remembers feeling as if he had been "dropped cold, empty, neutral, cleansed... naked."

In the following months, Martino made a remarkable recovery. Through intensive study of his own historic recordings and with the help of computer technology, Martino managed to reverse his memory loss and return to form on his instrument. His past recordings eventually became "an old friend, a spiritual experience which remained beautiful and honest." Since playing his first notes while still in his pre-teenage years, Martino has been recognized as one of the most exciting and virtuosic guitarists in jazz.

With a distinctive, fat sound and gut-wrenching performances, he represents the best – not just in jazz, but in music. He embodies thoughtful energy and soul.

Born in Philadelphia in 1944, Martino was first exposed to jazz through his father, Carmen "Mickey" Azzara, who sang in local clubs and briefly studied guitar with Eddie Lang. He took Martino to all the city's hot-spots to hear and meet Wes Montgomery and other musical giants. Martino moved to Harlem to immerse himself in the "soul jazz" played by Willis “Gatortail” Jackson and others. He previously had heard all of the so called “white” jazz. “I’d never heard that part of our culture," he remembers, until the Montgomery Brothers.

An icon even before his eighteenth birthday, Martino was signed as a leader for Prestige Records when he was 20. His seminal albums from this period include classics like Strings!, Desperado, El Hombre and Baiyina (The Clear Evidence), one of jazz's first successful ventures into psychedelia. In 1976, while performing internationally with his fusion group “Joyous Lake,” Martino began experiencing seizures, which were eventually diagnosed as AVM (Arteriovenous Malformation), a condition he was born with. After surgery and recovery, he resumed his career when he appeared in 1987 in New York, a gig that was released on a CD with an appropriate name, The Return.

One of Martino's finest original compositions, first heard on Pat Martino Live!:

Today, Martino lives in Philadelphia and continues to grow as a musician. As the New York Times noted, "Mr. Martino is back and he is plotting new musical directions, adding more layers to his myth." His experiments with guitar synthesizers, which begun during his rehabilitation, are taking him in the direction of orchestral arrangements and they promise groundbreaking possibilities.

Our very own, Robert Ginsburg, sat down with Pat Martino to chat about his career, relearning the guitar and his current musical endeavors. Listen HERE!

Pat Martino Trio performs at WAC Friday, Dec. 4 at 7pm & 9pm.

Tickets are $15-30 and can be purchased here.

Have a New York night at WAC!

Just be who you want to be…

celebrate your lifetriumphantly!

This is the message Kinky Boots, Broadway’s huge-hearted and high-heeled hit delivers to its audience. The show will go on from Jan. 19-Jan. 24 as part of the 2015-16 Broadway Series!

Inspired by true events, Kinky Boots takes you from a gentlemen’s shoe factory in Northampton to the glamorous catwalks of Milan. Charlie Price is struggling to live up to his father’s expectations and continue the family business of Price & Son. With the factory’s future hanging in the balance, help arrives in the unlikely but spectacular form of Lola –a fabulous performer in need of some sturdy new stilettos. Lola turns out to be the one person who can help Charlie become the man he’s meant to be. As they work to turn the factory around, this unlikely pair finds that they have more in common than they ever dreamed possible… and discovers that when you change your mind about someone, you can change the whole world.

Kinky Boots, the smash-hit musical brings together four-time Tony Award®-winner Harvey Fierstein and Grammy Award® -winning Cyndi Lauper. Directed and choreographed by Tony Award-winner Jerry Mitchell, Kinky Boots opened on Broadway in April 2013 and continues to play to standing-room-only crowds nightly. Kinky Boots took home six 2013 TonyAwards –more than any other show that season –including Best Musical, Best Score (Cyndi Lauper), Best Choreography (Jerry Mitchell), Best Orchestrations (Stephen Oremus) and Best Sound Design (John Shivers).


–ABC News

“HUGELY ENJOYABLE! A witty, truthful and emotionally centered musical with REAL FRESHNESS!”

 –Chicago Tribune


 – The New York Post

Charlie Price’s journey is based on the true story of Steve Pateman, an Englishman who struggled to save his family-run shoe factory from closure. Under pressure from changes in the fashion industry and competition abroad, he started to look for new markets. An unexpected call from a woman who ran a shop specializing in transgender glamour wear convinced him to try a line of women’s shoes in men’s sizes. He developed his line of “kinky boots” under the brand name “Divine Footwear.”

Get a glimpse of what's in store with this fabulous production!

Jazz Lovers rejoice!

"Anat does what all authentic musicians do: She tells stories from her own experiences that are so deeply felt that they are very likely to connect listeners to their own dreams, desires and longings."

The Wall Street Journal

Clarinetist-saxophonist Anat Cohen has won hearts and minds the world over with her expressive virtuosity and delightful stage presence. The Jazz Journalists Association has voted Anat asClarinetist of the Year eight years in a row, and she has topped both the Critics and Readers Polls in the clarinet category in DownBeat magazine every year since 2011. That’s not to mention years of being named Rising Star in the soprano and tenor saxophone categories in DownBeat, as well as for Jazz Artist of the Year.

Fun Facts

  • Anat was born in Tel Aviv, Israel 
  • Began clarinet studies at age 12
  • Graduated from both the Tel Aviv School for the Arts & Berklee College of Music 
  • Was the 1st Israeli to headline at the Village Vanguard
  • World's greatest jazz festivals invite Anat to perform (JVC, Chicago, New Orleans Jazz & Heritage, etc.)

Anat Cohen and her songs tell authentic stories that are deeply intertwined with the human experience. Her effervesence is deeply resonating and her versatility allows her to embrace a diverse palate of styles, from jazz standards and Brazlian Choros to compelling original compositions.

Here's a clip of Cohen performing "Putty Boy Strut" (originally by Flying Lotus) from her album LUMINOSA:

The Anat Cohen Quartet return to WAC 

Saturday, Nov. 21 at 7pm & 9pm

Tickets are $15-30 and can be purchased online here, by calling 479.443.5600 or in-person at the Walton Arts Center Box Office located in Nadine Baum Studios.