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$34 million gift for Opera in the Ozarks from Tom Walton and family
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$34 million gift for Opera in the Ozarks from Tom Walton and family

The Walton Family Foundation announced support for a new theater building for Opera in the Ozarks. The $34-million grant will fund the design and construction of a facility to attract the best of a new generation of aspiring singers and musicians.

“For seven decades, artists have traveled to Opera in the Ozarks on their music education journey,” said Jim and Lynne Walton. “A new theater continues this legacy by offering generations of future musicians and singers a new stage to showcase their talents.”

Opera in the Ozarks is one of the nation’s foremost opera training programs. It is located near Route 62 in Eureka Springs, Arkansas.

The new theater will seat 300. It will preserve the intimate audience experience of the existing facility. It will also maintain a strong connection with the natural surroundings. The space will enhance both patron comfort and improve production capabilities for artists and designers.

“A new theater will be transformational for our artists and audiences,” said Nancy J. Preis, general director of Opera in the Ozarks. “It will offer artists a stage worthy of their talents. Our new home will also be a welcoming space for audiences to enjoy an intimate and high-quality performance.”

Opera in the Ozarks started as a summer camp in 1950. It provided students from a variety of backgrounds access to music education. The program evolved into a music mecca attracting students from across the globe. Alumni of Opera in the Ozarks include notable stars Latonia Moore, Leona Mitchell and Mark Delavan. All have performed at the prestigious Metropolitan Opera House. Distinguished alumni have also performed on international stages in Vienna, Paris and Rio de Janeiro.

“Opera in the Ozarks was the first place where I was able to sing leading roles. I learned what was needed as an opera singer in preparation, rehearsal and on stage,” said Justin Burgess, 2017-2018 Opera in the Ozarks alumnus and current student at Cafritz Young Artists at Washington National Opera. “A new theater will give students the opportunity to build roles and perform on a stage comparable to what the future holds for them.”

In addition to the new theater, the facility will feature a lobby for guests and an expanded costume shop. The project also includes new faculty housing with multi-unit cabins. Construction begins this month. It is scheduled to be completed in mid-2025.

The Walton Family Foundation is, at its core, a family-led foundation. Three generations of the descendants of our founders, Sam and Helen Walton, and their spouses, work together to lead the foundation and create access to opportunity for people and communities. We work in three areas: improving education, protecting rivers and oceans and the communities they support, and investing in our home region of Northwest Arkansas and the Arkansas-Mississippi Delta.

Tom Walton (pictured above) is the co-founder of Runway Group, a Bentonville, Arkansas-based holding company.

Committed to making Arkansas the best place to live, Runway investments include real estate, outdoor initiatives, hospitality, and aviation. He is also Chairman of the Walton Family Foundation Home Region Program.

Born and raised in Bentonville, Tom spends his time giving back through regional investments and philanthropy. Through Runway, personal support, and the Walton Family Foundation’s Home Region Program, Tom plays an important role in revitalizing Northwest Arkansas downtown areas with a desire to create collaborative spaces for the region’s growing population.

Tom is a graduate of Northern Arizona University and resides in Bentonville with his wife Olivia and their two daughters.

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