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UCA Downtown Bridges the Gap Between Campus and Community

The University of Central Arkansas celebrated the grand opening today of UCA Downtown, a multiuse space in the heart of downtown Conway.


UCA Downtown

The 2500-square-foot facility will be home to culinary, fine arts, technology and other community education and lifelong learning programs hosted by UCA. Located within walking distance to restaurants and shops, the location is accessible to community members, and can be rented to host upscale events, business meetings and other small functions.


UCA artwork in the front gallery

The space is divided into two areas, with the front gallery area featuring rotating exhibitions of original artwork by UCA students, faculty and alumni, curated by the College of Fine Arts and Communication.

The back area is for specialized events and select UCA Outreach classes.


Tom Courtway, president of UCA

“Today marks the beginning of UCA reaching into downtown Conway,” president Tom Courtway said at the facility’s grand opening. “Today, this university that has existed for 108 years is making a statement about the arts and what this university and city are all about.”


Brad Lacy, president of Conway Chamber of Commerce

“If there was ever a question if the community wanted UCA Downtown, it was answered today,” said Brad Lacy, president of the Conway Chamber of Commerce. “We normally have 20 people at a ribbon cutting. This is a little overwhelming, but it is great,” Lacy said to a crowd of nearly 300 people.


Standing-room-only space at the grand opening event

“This was Tom Courtway’s idea,” Lacy said, adding that Courtway visited Savannah, Georgia and was inspired by the downtown presence of Savannah College of Art and Design.

“He was excited about that,” Lacy said, “This was truly his idea from start to finish.”

“I see [UCA Downtown] as an extension of the university, and think of it like a kiosk where you can come in and see and learn about what’s going on at UCA or downtown,” said Shelley Mehl, associate vice president for Outreach and Community Engagement, adding that with big campuses, it is often difficult to know what events are going on. To solve that problem, UCA Downtown is going to let the community know about daily events on a chalkboard outside of the facility.

Part of UCA Downtown’s mission is to “make people aware and to share our resources and talents,” Mehl said. “There is so much talent with UCA faculty, staff and students — there’s  something interesting for everybody. You don’t have to be an academic, you could just love music and art,” she said.

Next Tuesday, the community is invited to TEDx Salon, a TED event during which guests will watch a video about reinventing liberal arts education, followed by a discussion about the film.

To celebrate Valentine’s Day, the facility is holding a cooking class for couples with Chef Jason Knapp. The three-course dinner will include a wine and cheese reception, music, candlelit tables and a dessert cooking class.

Mehl has already gotten requests for a variety of community events, from a 90th birthday party to UCA’s fall sports signing day to the Rotary Club’s evening social.

“I don’t think I’ll say no to anything. Let’s see if we can make it work. I see this space developing a personality of its own,” Mehl said.

“I want this space to be busy. I want it to be vibrant and active and alive, so when people walk by, they’ll wonder what’s going on down there. It’s easy to get excited about it,” she said.

To schedule an event at UCA Downtown, visit

Rental Fees

No charge to UCA departments

Department would be responsible for set up and clean up

Recommend $350 for whole space and $250 for back space as daily fee

Recommend $150 for whole space for half day and $100 for back space for half day

Recommend special rate for Service Learning Community partners