Photography by Jamison Mosley | Shot on location at UCA Windgate Center for Fine & Performing Arts
As an undergraduate student at the University of Central Arkansas, Amanda Horton was introduced to the magical appeal of performing arts. It was Sweeney Todd for a class requirement she fondly remembers, “I absolutely loved the format – the storytelling, the fanfare of costumes and the pageantry of the production.” It’s a curious journey and an unwavering adoration of theater + community that brought Amanda back to the university. She looks forward to welcoming patrons to the Donald W. Reynolds Performance Hall for an exciting season and sharing the immersive experience of the new Windgate Center for Fine & Performing Arts.
Amanda’s childhood in Southeast Arkansas cultivated a deep devotion to The Natural State. “My grandfather served in the House of Representatives; he was also a Highway Commissioner and an Arkansas Game & Fish Commissioner. His heart was in service to his community and I felt like I would follow in his footsteps into politics.” After graduating from Stuttgart High School, Amanda studied Speech Communications at the University of Central Arkansas with plans to work at a public relations firm with politicians. She pursued a master’s degree at UA Little Rock and returned to Stuttgart where she worked in the healthcare industry. She remained engaged with academia as an adjunct professor at Phillips Community College and continued to cultivate her knowledge and appreciation of theater. “This is when the opportunity came to turn my love of the arts into a career.” Amanda was named the first director for the Grand Prairie Center, a conference and performing arts center on the campus of the college. “This was in 2010, and I was able to be a part of the process from the beginning stages of building the facility,” she elaborates. “I learned so much. This helped immensely during the building of the Windgate Center for Fine & Performing Arts.”
She returned to the University of Central Arkansas as director of the Donald W. Reynolds Performance Hall and has enjoyed a tenure of more than a decade. Each year, the annual performing arts series showcases nationally and internationally acclaimed artists as well as student organizations, local artists and community events. Under Amanda’s current leadership as executive director of public appearances, the amenities of the performance hall and the new Windgate Center for Fine & Performing Arts blend seamlessly into an innovative component of the UCA curriculum + continuum of services.
The Windgate Center for Fine & Performing Arts complements the university’s vision as a beacon for collaboration and unrealized opportunities. “The University of Central Arkansas is dedicated to arts education and integration with its educational degree program, Reynolds Performing Arts Season, Arkansas Shakespeare Theatre Festival and the Conway Symphony Orchestra. This new center emphasizes a continued commitment to our students and the community by offering unique cultural opportunities in an extraordinary setting.” This kind of accessibility to the arts really resonates with Amanda. “Growing up in a more rural town, we didn’t have anything like this,” she reflects. “For students and the community to be exposed to incredible performing and visual arts… this might just change a life, like it did for this small town girl from Arkansas County!”
Congruent with this belief in the transformative power of the arts, Amanda established the Main Stage Series in 2015 – serving more than 7,000 school children annually. This series brings students from across the state to the University of Central Arkansas campus to experience theater. “For many, this is the first time they have attended a live production and it helps plant the seed for future artists, college students and patrons.” Her commitment to providing these kinds of opportunities for all Arkansans is steadfast.
As Amanda reflects on her career and continued success at the University of Central Arkansas, she realizes this remarkable turn of events in her own story. “The way my life has led to a career in the arts is uncanny. I had no idea as a freshman at UCA that I would ever take a theatre class that would eventually bring me here … I’m very fortunate to have had the influence of UCA as a student that set me on this glorious adventure.”