NWA EDITORIAL | The Walton Arts Center remains true to the educational value of the arts

What’s the point?

Thirty years after its opening, the Walton Arts Center continues to bring the arts to local students and educators.

When the Walton Arts Center opened on Dickson Street in Fayetteville in April 1992, there was understandably great excitement about the facility’s ability to attract high-profile performances unlike any residents of the Northwest from Arkansas who had seen locally. But his supporters didn’t see the center as just a big stage with plenty of seating.

Even before the facility opened, supporters worked to develop educational programs to ensure that the center would become a source of artistic development in children, to aid in creative and critical thinking, to deepen appreciation of the arts and to broaden future generations of patrons to support the arts.

It’s been 30 years now and the work of spreading the benefits of art never stops.

Take, for example, a Walton Arts Center program designed to connect school districts with local arts organizations, informing school officials about what these organizations do and, perhaps, what they can offer educators and students.

The Artlook platform provides such details for Benton, Washington and Madison counties, according to Sallie Zazal, director of learning and engagement for the arts center.

It’s certainly not uncommon for resources to exist that would benefit students in area schools, but connecting those services to educators planning lessons can be a hit-or-miss prospect. Zazal said the new Artlook data is designed to provide great artistic experiences for children of all grades and in all schools.

Similarly, arts organizations may have ways to help – through grants, for example – but they don’t necessarily know where the needs lie in local schools. Zazal recently told the Northwest Arkansas Education Service Cooperative, made up of the region’s superintendents, that the effort is designed to “make access to arts education more equitable.”

If knowledge is power – and it is – it sounds like Artlook and the support of the Walton Arts Center can be a valuable tool for area school districts, especially smaller ones that sometimes struggle to dispense quality artistic education. Exposing children to a single artistic performance or activity can open up a world of possibilities in creative thinking.

We deeply appreciate the ability of educators to provide lessons in math, science, language and similar subjects, but too often the arts can be an afterthought or, even if in mind, educators don’t really know how to structure arts education. due to a lack of knowledge or access.

True to ideas expressed more than 30 years ago as patrons of northwest Arkansas worked to establish the Walton Arts Center, the organization continues to seek ways to have a significant impact beyond the shows presented at the corner of Dickson Street and West Street.

William E. Bennett