Fort Smith Community School of the Arts Achieves $7.5 Million Fundraising Goal with $750,000 Grant


Project funding

The Mabee Foundation funds projects, which consist of capital expenditures and major medical equipment purchases, in Arkansas, Kansas, Missouri, New Mexico, Oklahoma and Texas.

Source: Mabee Foundation

FORT SMITH — The Community School of the Arts announced Wednesday that it has met its original fundraising goal of $7.5 million to build a riverfront facility.

This is the result of a $750,000 “challenge” grant the Texas-based Mabee Foundation awarded for the project, according to a school press release. The school will receive the money in the spring after the building foundations are completed for the Center for the Creative Arts, which will be north of the US Marshals Museum at 789 Riverfront Drive.

“The Mabee Foundation is proud to support the Community School of the Arts and its mission to integrate arts education into leadership training for children who often don’t have access to it,” said Michael Goeke, Executive Director of the Mabee Foundation, in the press release. “We expect this new facility to expand CSA’s influence throughout Arkansas and Oklahoma for many years to come.”

Rosilee Russell, founder and executive director of the Community School of the Arts, said the school received the grant after raising $3.7 million during 2021. The school had raised 40% of its goal of $7.5 million before this point.

“We are so grateful and blessed to have received the Mabee grant and grateful to the friends and supporters of this community for helping us achieve this goal,” Russell said in the statement.

Russell said the Community Arts School will be housed in the 40,000 square foot Creative Arts Center when complete. The school is located on the campus of St. Boniface Catholic Church in Fort Smith. It has an enrollment of 700 to 800 students per semester between its onsite and offsite programs.

Construction is expected to begin this month and be completed in the summer of 2023, according to the press release.

The facility will organize arts programs for young children through high school students, as well as for adults, the statement said.

“The institute will operate daily as students will attend for half of their school day from potentially 39 regional school districts and will receive high school credits at their participating school,” the statement said.

The institute’s six main program areas include Film Arts, Culinary Arts, Music, Dance, Dramatic Arts, and Art and Design, the statement said. Features of the facility will include “high-tech” classrooms, teaching and dance studios, art galleries, a recording studio, film and digital animation labs, labs culinary arts, a black box theater and a 350-seat theater and performance hall.

Phillip Russell, director of development for the school’s Inspiring Excellence campaign, said in the statement that the campaign will focus on raising the funds needed to complete the new facility.

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