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story.lead_photo.caption Courtesy of TheatreSquared. An artist's rendering shows an elevated view of the TheatreSquared building, set to begin construction in late June.

FAYETTEVILLE — The Walton Family Foundation recently approved a $1.8 million grant to TheatreSquared to help with expansion.

The three-year grant will allow for sustainable growth, including staff members and support for core operations during the expansion and transition to the new theater at the corner of Spring Street and West Avenue, said Martin Miller, executive director.

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“There’s always a danger when you do big things as a nonprofit that you overextend yourself,” Miller said. “It’s a big deal for us to be able to count on a grant like this so we aren’t too stretched as we grow up. We are being careful and specific about what our challenges will be facing and addressing them in advance.”

This grant is separate from the $12.5 million the foundation gave in April to the theater’s $34 million Our Next Stage Campaign to build the 50,000-square-foot performing arts center and full-time cafe and bar. The campaign includes the $31.5 million price tag for the construction project and enough to start an artistic, operation and education reserve.

“As we continue construction, engaging a truly regional audience and securing multi-year support for our core programs is more crucial than ever,” Miller said.

The addition of a director of marketing and communications was made possible in part by the recent grant, he said. The theater hired Joanna Sheehan Bell, who will begin work Oct. 4.

Miller said he hopes with Bell’s background, she’ll be able to reach a more regional audience.

Bell is the outgoing director of programs for the American Theatre Wing, which founded the Tony Awards, where she oversaw programs ranging from grants, awards, professional development initiatives, Emmy-nominated media productions and national partnerships during her 10-year tenure with the New York-based organization.

“Joanna has done some really cool work. She helped establish a national grant program that a lot of theaters across the county have been recognized through, including Theatre Squared. We are going to benefit in a huge way from that,” he said.

Bell said the theater is emerging as a national player in the industry.

“I’m excited to help tell the company’s story, raise its profile and lead its audience and outreach expansion during its transition to a state-of-the-art cultural facility,” she said in a news release. “I’m amazed at the vibrancy of the arts scene in this remarkable area, and my family and I are looking forward to calling Northwest Arkansas home.”

Miller said they plan to bring in other leadership and in-house expertise over the course of the grant such as facility support they didn’t need previously as tenants.

Ashton Eley can be reached by email at or Twitter @NWAAshton.

Print Headline: TheatreSquared gets $1.8 million grant for expansion project

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