Peter Lane Amps Up the NWA Arts Scene at Walton Arts Center

Before joining the Walton Arts Center as CEO in May 2009, Peter Lane served as the executive director of the New York Pops and as the CEO of the Mann Center for the Performing Arts in Philadelphia.

Under his leadership, the Walton Arts Center is scheduled to undergo a massive 30,000-SF expansion and renovation of its signature building on Dickson Street. The Walton Arts Center also owns the Arkansas Music Pavilion, which is getting a new venue, an $11 million outdoor amphitheater that will open this summer in Rogers.

How will the new venue for the Arkansas Music Pavilion change the northwest Arkansas music scene?

Large-scale outdoor concerts have been the No. 1 unmet entertainment need in northwest Arkansas. The new Wal-Mart AMP will introduce a new scale of entertainment to northwest Arkansas. Big summer concerts and events will draw tourists from around the region and impact our state’s economy in exciting ways. Guests will have a unique concert experience in Arkansas’ newest outdoor venue nestled in the foothills of the Ozarks. In addition to an expansive lawn, concertgoers will enjoy covered seating, air-conditioned restrooms, an outdoor plaza for mingling and the largest stage in Arkansas.

The Walton Arts Center is also about to undergo a significant expansion. What are your expectations from a new and improved WAC?

Our vision is to create a quality of life in northwest Arkansas that is second to none and draw world-class arts and entertainment to our region. We see this being the next transformation of Dickson Street — bringing more arts, more education opportunities, better audience amenities and increased economic activity to the entertainment district.

You are a classically trained bassist. How often do you get a chance to play?

I stopped playing professionally nearly 30 years ago but have played a bit for my kids and occasionally with friends. Playing an instrument requires dedication, passion and commitment, and I get frustrated because I can’t play the way I want to play.

What is the future for arts and entertainment in northwest Arkansas? What is needed the most to help the sector continue to grow?

The Walton Arts Center is an economic engine, attracting over 250,000 people a year to a vast array of 350-plus arts, educational and festival programs. Our growth is dependent on facility growth, which will enable us to execute an ambitious plan to make arts and entertainment an integral part of the fabric of our growing community. We are seeing the emergence of more artists and arts organizations, and we need to be able to meet the demand for first-rate arts and entertainment in northwest Arkansas.

To continue our growth, we need to maintain our commitment to artistic excellence and assure our programs make a lasting impact on our community. This helps fundraising, operations and execution of long-term goals.

What was the best and the worst decisions you have made in the arts world?

Pushing a new vision through an organization can be satisfying work that has a positive impact on the organization and touches the lives of thousands. Knowing when to push and pull back are judgment calls that I have gotten both right and wrong.

What is the best advice you ever received?

It is better to remain silent and be thought a fool than to speak up and remove all doubt.