A good year for the arts 

UALR, UA-Fort Smith, Walton Arts Center, Children's Museum the beneficiaries.

WINDGATE BUILDS THE ARTS: With a $20 million gift to UALR for a new arts building.
  • WINDGATE BUILDS THE ARTS: With a $20 million gift to UALR for a new arts building.

The year 2014 was a banner year for the arts and humanities, the National Philanthropic Trust says, with giving up 9.2 percent over 2013 (The information is based on 2014 tax returns, the most recent available.) Arkansas philanthropists did their share, pledging $48.1 million toward arts and museum facilities.

The Windgate Foundation of Siloam Springs, the state's biggest grantmaker in the arts, accounts for more than half that giving total. On Sept. 3, the University of Arkansas at Fort Smith opened the $15.5 million Windgate Art and Design Building, a state-of-the-art, 58,000-square-foot facility built with Windgate dollars. In 2017, thanks to a $20 million Windgate pledge, the University of Arkansas at Little Rock will open a new building that will bring its applied design, art history and studio arts classes under one roof. The 71,636-square-foot arts center will include an 80-seat lecture hall and two art galleries. When the foundation announced the gift, a reporter asked foundation Director John Brown how the arts helped the economy. "Two words," Brown said. "Crystal Bridges." He was, of course, referring to Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art in Bentonville, created by Walmart heiress Alice Walton. Crystal Bridges also benefited from Windgate generosity, winning a grant of $520,000 for its online education program. Windgate also made significant gifts to the Thea Foundation to support its A+ arts-engaged curriculum and the Eureka School for the Arts.

The Walton Arts Center has broken ground on a $23 million expansion with help from individuals, foundations and corporations. The Walton Family Foundation gave $5.3 million to the new Children's Museum in Bentonville.

Arkansas's individual giving outmatched the national rise of 7.1 percent. Gifts of more than $250,000 made public in 2014 added up to nearly $56 million. Last year's Arkansas Times philanthropy issue reported individual gifts adding up to $34.45 million. The improved stock market and economy get part of the credit; perhaps a growing culture of Arkansas philanthropy — and a willingness to announce one's gifts — does as well.

Hendrix College got its biggest gift ever: $26 million from the estate of Mary Ann Dawkins, an executive of Coulson Oil who died in 2014. Hendrix will use the money for scholarships; the gift pushed its endowment to over $200 million.

People gave generously to the University of Arkansas, as always. The school raised $116.5 million in private gifts in its 2015 fiscal year, making it the fourth-best year in its fundraising history. Dallas Cowboys owner Jerry Jones gets top billing in UA giving: He donated $10.6 million to the Student-Athlete Success Center.

The University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences got major gifts for its Myeloma Institute for the Bart Barlogie Center for Molecular Diagnostics this year, including a $10 million donation from the Celgene Corp. and another $5.1 million from two anonymous donors. The Donald W. Reynolds Foundation, which stopped making grants last year, announced this year it would give $7.9 million to UAMS for its Reynolds Institute on Aging, and UAMS received several other gifts of $1 million for various purposes.

The Walton Family Foundation, now with $2.7 billion in assets and which gave away more money in 2014 — $360.5 million — than any other Arkansas foundation has in the bank, is ranked 28th in the country in wealth. The foundation breaks its giving down into three categories: K-12 education grants, environment and home region. Home region grants totaled more than $40 million.

Large entities, like the University of Arkansas and other worthy institutions, receive major gifts every year. But there are smaller nonprofits that may not always be on the receiving end of big gifts and whose charitable missions are deserving of attention. In this issue we profile several nonprofits deserving of financial and volunteer support: the Single Parent Scholarship Fund of Pulaski County, part of the statewide nonprofit founded in Northwest Arkansas; the Arkansas chapter of the Sierra Club, which fights for clean air and water in our state; the Arkansas Support Network, which helps families caring for children with developmental disabilities and for disabled adults; Our House, which gives shelter to the working poor and their children; and Big Brothers Big Sisters of Central Arkansas, which provides mentors to at-risk kids. Find the donate button on their websites, a way to give that is increasing in popularity.


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