The Oxford American is transforming its new buildings in Little Rock’s burgeoning South Main Street (SOMA) district into a home for diverse arts programming where people can experience the variety of culture that its award-winning magazine has documented since 1992. The space will include a restaurant that will present the full breadth and depth of southern culinary culture. Accompanying the food will be nightly cultural programming that will feature the best of Southern arts and culture across a variety of formats including literature, music, film, art, drama and food. The Oxford American will use its own connections and expertise to create national-caliber programs featuring famous and notable artistic personalities, but these high-level programs will be interspersed on a day-to-day basis with the community-oriented programming developed through partnerships with local organizations and institutions. The Oxford American will also outfit this space with recording (audio and video) equipment that will allow all of the programming to be live-streamed over the organization’s website as well as recorded for podcasts, videos and other presentations. As a result, the programming will be viewed and appreciated by people all over the world.

ArtPlace spoke with Warwick Sabin, the publisher of The Oxford American, about their project and what role partnerships play in its execution.

ARTPLACE: Who outside your organization has been key to your ability to move your initiative forward?

SABIN: ArtPlace is providing the funding that is allowing our initiative to move forward, so you are definitely our key partner. However, we are also working with a young chef who will be contributing his considerable talents to this project. Our landlord has been very supportive and cooperative as we transform her buildings to accommodate our new concept. We have also benefited from productive relationships with the SOMA neighborhood, the City of Little Rock, and even the Capitol Zoning District Commission, which is a state agency that regulates development in historic areas near the State Capitol. It has been gratifying to work with so many people who appreciate the value of creative placemaking and are willing to support our efforts toward that end.

ARTPLACE: Are there secrets to good partnerships?

SABIN: I think the secret to good partnerships is honesty. Both partners have to be honest with each other about their goals, what they need from each other to achieve them, and what they can each contribute to the effort. When information is exchanged freely and expectations on both sides are clear and realistic, the strength of a partnership can exponentially increase the capacity of both parties.

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