Community School of the Arts Announces $5 Million in Funding

Apr 10, 2024 | News & Events

In a historic moment for Fort Smith, Arkansas, Community School of the Arts was awarded $5 million in funding to assist in construction and other costs of the new Center for the Creative Arts located at 1101 Riverfront Drive thanks to the federal New Markets Tax Credit program.  This represents a big day in the life of Fort Smith and Arkansas – culturally, economically, and educationally.

Established by Congress in December 2000, the New Markets Tax Credit program is designed to attract private-sector capital investments into the nation’s urban and rural low-income areas in an

effort to help expand access to quality jobs, healthcare, education, and other critical services in those communities. The NMTC program increases the flow of capital to businesses and low-income communities by providing a tax incentive to private investors, making the program a valuable investment option for businesses and investors alike.

The funding through New Markets Tax Credits is the first time that the Fort Smith community has benefitted from this program. Community School of the Arts received $25 million of tax credit allocation from New York City based Civic Builders and worked with HOPE (Hope Enterprise Corporation/Hope Credit Union) and the Low-Income Investment Fund (LIIF) for lending needs and with Regions Bank, who provided the NMTC investment. This collaboration resulted in a net subsidy of approximately $5 million that is being used to complete the lobby area and classroom spaces of the 42,000 sq. ft. Center for the Creative Arts facility that will house arts education programs for children and youth of all ages and socio-economic backgrounds.

CSA is a nonprofit comprehensive arts organization founded in 2016 that serves Fort Smith and the surrounding region that includes a population totaling over 600,000.  The focus of CSA is to build a culture of arts education for young children through high school age with access for all.  CSA offers after-school, evening, and weekend programs for children and youth of all ages and skill levels taught by professional artists.

In 2018, CSA embarked upon a campaign to build the Center for the Creative Arts, a state-of-the-art facility that will reach literally thousands of students and families for arts activities and serve alongside the United States Marshals Museum as an anchor for Fort Smith’s riverfront development. The funding from the NMTC is making this dream a reality.

The addition of the Center is a gamechanger for the region as it will attract people to the downtown and riverfront areas.  Concerts and shows year-round, outdoor gathering spaces, flexible-use event spaces and an annual arts festival will mean the new facility will be in high demand.  The Center will not only make a valuable cultural impact but will be a catalyst for tourism and hospitality.

In December of 2023 the Arkansas State Board of Education unanimously approved the request to begin a Performing & Visual Arts Charter High School in Fort Smith. As the sponsoring entity for the high school, this marked an exciting new day for CSA.  The high school, called the Institute for the Creative Arts, is the first-of-its-kind in Arkansas and a model for education in both arts and academics. It will open in August and will be housed in CSA’s Center for the Creative Arts.  As a public charter school, the Institute is tuition-free and open to all students.

On January 11, 2023, immediately following Governor Sarah Huckabee Sanders inauguration, the Governor signed an executive order aiming to expand charter schools. The Institute is a key part of that expansion because it represents another opportunity for students to choose the high school that is the best fit for their needs.  The New Markets Tax Credits received by CSA have come at a strategic moment in time to not only allow for CSA to construct a facility to meet cultural and educational needs, but also to further carry out the Governor’s initiative to provide greater educational opportunities for all.

The Institute will combine a rigorous college preparatory academic program with pre-professional training in the arts which will include music, theatre, dance, visual art, film, and culinary.  The school will specialize in arts programs that are not typically offered in a traditional high school.  Students will be immersed in one or more arts disciplines of their choice and spend several hours weekly training and honing their skills.  Professional musicians, actors, dancers, filmmakers, and artists will provide the critical link between ICA students and the professional arts world.  Academic instructors are highly trained in their field and will actively engage in preparing students for college and beyond.

Through the New Markets Tax Credit program, communities benefit in so many incredible ways.

Thanks to the support of Civic Builders, Regions Bank, HOPE and LIIF, the funding CSA has received will provide educational, economic, and artistic opportunities to people for countless future generations. Without their help, these types of projects would not be possible. 


Do South Magazine

Related Posts

Pin It on Pinterest

Share This