Established at the Arkansas Community Foundation, the endowment is expected to generate $400,000 annually in operating support for the school, enabling it to continue providing free and subsidized programming for families, military veterans, and local residents as well as expand its partnerships with and support for area nonprofits. The funding also will ensure ongoing employment for ESSA employees and enable the school to focus future fundraising on scholarships and campus development. The gift will replace what had been annual grants from the foundation, which also awarded a $400,000 bridge grant to support ESSA during a required one-year waiting period before the endowment can be tapped.
Founded in 1998 by local artists and craftspeople as a resource for art and craft education and creative experiences, ESSA today attracts students from all fifty states with workshops in woodworking, wood carving, and woodturning; blacksmithing, metal sculpture, metal fabrication, and welding; painting and drawing; ceramics; jewelry making and small metals; and leatherworking, basket weaving, and felting.
"This is an exceptional and transformative investment in ESSA by a longtime and committed partner," said ESSA executive director Kelly McDonough. "With this support we can expect ESSA to mature into national prominence on par with blue-chip schools such as the Penland School of Crafts, Arrowmont School of Arts and Crafts, and Haystack Mountain School of Crafts."