JONESBORO — Chancellor Kelly Damphousse announced the largest financial contribution in the history of Arkansas State University on Friday as the Windgate Foundation pledged a $25 million challenge gift toward the construction and maintenance of a new building on campus.
The announcement followed the Arkansas State University System Board of Trustees formal vote to accept the gift and to designate the facility as the Windgate Hall of Art and Innovation and the accompanying Art and Innovation District on the A-State campus. The $25 million gift devotes $20 million of this amount for construction and $5 million for a building maintenance endowment.
“We are pleased to partner with A-State in this unique opportunity to advance visual art collaborations across academic fields,” said Robyn Horn, Windgate board chairwoman. “The arts are an integral part of learning, and we appreciate the support the school and ASU Board members have shown with the Bradbury Art Museum and the Center for Three-Dimensional Arts. We are confident the new Hall of Art and Innovation will benefit both the students and community in many significant ways.”
With this recent gift to A-State, Windgate becomes the largest single benefactor in the 112-year history of the university with a total just under $40 million during the past several years.
“On behalf of every A-State student, alumnus, faculty or staff member, I want to say the most humble thanks to our good friends at Windgate for your challenge grant, and your belief in the new vision we have for this part of the A-State campus,” Damphousse said.
The announcement also launched additional fundraising to meet the building construction challenge as well as revealing other details of the master plan for the district surrounding the future Windgate Hall.
“Today is one of those days that years later people recall, ‘do you remember where you were when?’” Damphousse said. “This will rank as one of the milestone moments in Arkansas State University history, and it will forever lift up our campus, our community, and generations of future students.”
The celebration of the gift, held at the A-State Reng Student Union, highlighted the potential for collaboration across colleges toward the goals of infusing art into a wide range of other academic disciplines.
“Art is a part of every endeavor, and the goal of the Windgate Hall of Art and Innovation is to create new curriculum that fuses together art, science, design and innovation,” Damphousse said. “Whether it is a bridge, a building or a business plan – when it is excellent and elegant we call it ‘a work of art.’ Windgate Hall will open collaborations between art and engineering, art and science, art and business, art and computer programming, art and a wide range of disciplines we’ve not imagined yet.”
Two specific academic areas were discussed for initial collaborations. The Neil Griffin College of Business has worked with the College of Liberal Arts and Communication’s (CLAC) Department of Art + Design on a proposed new digital innovation master’s degree program that will be submitted to the Arkansas Department of Higher Education in early 2022. The faculties of CLAC are also beginning discussions for other innovation collaborations with the College of Engineering and Computer Science.
“We know from our recent alumni and from industry and employers that an interdisciplinary mindset is vital,” Damphousse said. “The marketplace of tomorrow demands that we all have crossover skills. What we do today prepares students for a future economy that changes not every few years, but every few months.”
Damphousse harkened back to similar turning points in A-State’s past to provide a scale of the significance of the gift and the plan to transform a large portion of the campus.
“Each generation has seen a significant pivotal event in the history of our campus,” Damphousse said. “We have not seen change like this since the closing of Caraway and Aggie to create a pedestrian campus core at Arkansas State. Today’s addition will greatly enhance and expand our campus life.”
Among the features of the district are numerous Art Walks and outdoor art display areas which will tie into the existing campus-wide bicycle and pedestrian master plan. A new outdoor performance amphitheater will serve multiple functions from large outdoor classroom to concert venue to open collaboration space.
All of the plans align with several of the pillars of the #Discover2025 strategic plan for Arkansas State.
“Our campus agreed that a revamping in our core curriculum was an important goal along with identifying new and innovative areas of creative endeavor and research, creating new chances to collaborate with our communities – both on and off campus, and building a campus climate where we have a sense of place that invites people to want to come work, teach, learn, research, and yes, live and play,” Damphousse added. “We can check all those boxes next to our goals with this bold initiative.”
The next steps in the process begin next year with the start of an open period of fundraising and more formal discussions related to specifics of the anchor Windgate Hall facility, including further work toward establishing timelines for groundbreaking and construction schedules.
“The collaboration with our deans and alumni extends to these incredible opportunities for our friends and supporters to come on board and become a part of the process,” Damphousse said. “Dr. Erika Krennerich Chudy, our vice chancellor for university advancement, and her senior development director Jessica Blackburn were instrumental in working with Windgate on today’s announcement. They will now begin collaborating with our deans and our donors to meet the challenge-grant fundraising.”