Arkansas Arts & Fashion Forum (AAFF) announces the expansion of their educational programming and the opening of a new 6,500 sq ft headquarters in Downtown Springdale. The new location will house space for offices, workshops, artist collaborative spaces, alongside a sewing lab and classroom.
In 2018 AAFF launched a year-long pilot educational program with the support of the Walton Family Foundation. Programming included speaker events, educational workshops, and student designer showcases. AAFF worked with hundreds of individuals interested in growing the fashion community in Arkansas, including pioneering programming with the Marshallese and Latinx communities based in Springdale.
Thanks to an additional grant from the Walton Family Foundation, the Arkansas Arts & Fashion Forum will expand their programming to create longer running sewing courses, more in-depth educational experiences, and speaker series events featuring industry experts from across the nation.
AAFF’s Educational Program includes three main areas of programming:
– Student Designer Showcases – Educational and Professional Development Workshops – Public Speaker Series
New programs include a beginners sewing course pioneered by designer Basana Chhetri, the founder of Nepal’s first fashion institute, who is building a course specifically for a cohort of Marshallese women interested in growing skills in sewing and design. Courses are also being designed for the general public by designer Sindhu Varagani for introductory and intermediate sewing for adults, teens, and pre-teens.
In addition to the new office and additional programming, Arkansas Arts & Fashion Forum has also been selected to participate in the Social Innovation Challenge pioneered by the Office of Entrepreneurship and Innovation at the University of Arkansas. Working with faculty and students, AAFF will help develop a customer facing retail experience for designers and creative producers to build their experience selling their products to the community. They will also develop programming to provide designers with educational opportunities related to developing and managing an LLC business venture through which to sell and produce their designs.
“We believe that the outpouring of enthusiasm from the community shows that we’ve really hit a nerve in terms of an untapped appetite on the cultural landscape. Teaching basic sewing skills, alongside transferable skills such as business, marketing, entrepreneurial skills, and more, we think we are truly growing industry from the ground up here in NWA. And we think there isn’t anywhere better suited for this type of development than Downtown Springdale. Thanks in large part to the amazing support we’ve received from the Walton Family Foundation, we’ve been able to dream really big, and we do think the sky’s the limit for how far our programming and participants can go with these new skills.”
– Robin Atkinson, CEO, Arkansas Arts & Fashion Forum
About Arkansas Arts & Fashion Forum:
The Arkansas Arts & Fashion Forum was founded in 2017 with the hope of providing a central location for creative producers in Arkansas to find professional development resources, creative inspiration, and a community of support.
The mission of the Arkansas Arts & Fashion Forum is to provide educational opportunities and professional support for aspiring avant-garde fashion designers, artists, and other creative professionals who are committed to building a vibrant and inspired creative community in Arkansas. Within this mission, the Arkansas Arts & Fashion Forum pursues three main areas of programming:
● Providing educational workshops, classes and panel discussions for both fashion professionals and the public to increase understanding of the art of fashion.
● Providing educational scholarships and production grants to aspiring fashion designers.
● Providing educational mentorship opportunities for aspiring photographers, models, hair stylists, makeup artists, videographers and other aspiring professionals to work with established professionals in an educational environment for the development and enhancement of professional skills and knowledge.
Each season the Arkansas Arts & Fashion Forum dedicates time and resources to ensuring that designers based in the state of Arkansas are able to participate in NWA Fashion Week, ensuring visibility to their brands and professional development opportunities toward the goal of establishing a thriving fashion industry in our state.