Conway is home to a number of individuals and organizations committed to fostering a vibrant arts community. The presence of the University of Central Arkansas, Hendrix College, and Central Baptist College contribute to the city’s strong cultural scene. The three institutions of higher learning - together with Faulkner County’s library and museum and other local organizations - provide a plethora of free and ticketed events throughout the year. Conway's creative community invites residents and visitors alike to experience Conway’s culture and to cultivate their appreciation for the arts. With art galleries, a symphony, and events ranging from live theater and music performances to yoga and painting classes, Conway offers unique activities for every unique individual.
Faulkner County Library offers a variety of programs for children and adults, including panel discussions, musical programs, book discussions, story time, and arts and crafts.
Branch Out Paint Bar+ Boutique offers both public and private art classes for people of all ages to discover their inner artist. No artistic experience is required, and step-by-step instructions are provided in every class. Branch Out is the perfect place for family fun, with events such as "Mommy & Me" as well as Family Day on Saturdays. Branch Out also specializes in birthday parties, bachelorette parties, bridal showers, reunions, events for church groups and Greek life, fundraisers and corporate events, and date nights as well as girls' night out.
Faulkner County Museum showcases the history of the area from prehistory to the present. Its two buildings consist of the historic county jail, built in 1896, which houses most of the exhibits; and a dogtrot cabin, relocated from the Eight-Mile-Store area in the late 1960s. Exhibits include sports memorabilia, antique tools, a Native American display, a model railroad, and political and agricultural exhibits. The Faulkner County Master Gardeners developed an herb garden on the museum grounds that contains heirloom and period plants.
Faulkner County Library offers classes in yoga and knitting, basic computer skills, and sign language.
Blackbird Academy of Arts offers programs for children and adults, such as pre-professional dance training and classes in music, filmmaking, theater, visual arts, creative writing, and sewing. The not for-profit organization was formed to give everyone in the Conway area opportunities to experience and participate in artistic endeavors. Students share their gifts with the community through performances, art shows, readings, and more.
Arkansas Shakespeare Theatre, the state's only professional Shakespeare Company, brings to Conway professional performers from around the country and provides opportunities for local performers as well. AST produces a selection of the Bards plays, along with other productions, during its annual summer festival. The company operates under the aegis of the University of Central Arkansas Foundation and has been featured in The New York Times.
Baum Gallery is an educational art museum for UCA students, faculty, staff, and the central Arkansas community. The gallery, located in the west wing of McCastlain Hall at the University of Central Arkansas, is free and open to the public. The director and selected faculty arrange for touring exhibitions, sponsor juried student shows, and cooperate across disciplines to provide original exhibits suited to an academic environment. The gallery develops exhibitions and events that invite interaction and encourage dialogue about visual art and relevant topics.
Conway Alliance for the Arts is an organization that generates support for local artistic endeavors through collaboration, promotion, and development of resources for the advancement of the Conway community. CAFTA hosts the annual ArtsFest, held each fall in downtown Conway. The event includes a number of activities geared toward art lovers of all ages.
Conway Art displays a vast variety of artwork by talented, local artists. To keep things fresh, the gallery rotates its art every three months. The gallery also hosts art classes for children ages 8-13.
Conway Community Arts Association is a live theater group that promotes the arts in Conway by providing professional, dynamic, and unique theatrical experiences. The volunteer-run association presents several productions each year. It fills the roles in the productions through open auditions, and local residents play most of the parts. Performances take place in The Lantern Theatre, located on Van Rankle Street in downtown Conway.
Conway League of Artists has more than 100 members representing five counties. The majority of its members are painters, although sculptors and photographers and some who work in 3-D media are eligible as well. The league sponsors several shows annually. The largest, the Tri-County Show, is a juried exhibition held in November at the Faulkner County Library in Conway.
UCA Public Appearances is an annual series under the auspices of University of Central Arkansas’s College of Fine Arts and Communication, which manages the 1,200-seat Donald W Reynolds Performance Hall. Its primary responsibility is to develop and present performing arts programming to Conway and the central Arkansas community Series funds are generated from the state, UCA Performing Arts fees, grants, ticket sales, and donations. In its 2013 season, UCA Public Appearances brought in Bill Cosby, Lisa Ling, Paul Taylor Dance Company, Cirque Eloize, and Audra McDonald, just to name a few.
Hendrix College hosts a variety of artists and performances throughout the year through a program called "Special Events Programs in the Fine and Performing Arts". A fund established by the alumni and friends of the college underwrites the performances, which are free to students and the public. No advanced tickets or reservations are required. The many student productions, student recitals, and faculty recitals at Hendrix are also open to the public.
Conway Men's Chorus is an association of more than 60 men from all walks of life who have come together for the joy of singing and the desire to give back to their community. The group presents two free concerts each year - one in the spring and one in the fall – at the Donald W Reynolds Performance Hall on the University of Central Arkansas campus. There is no admission for the performances and reservations are not required.
Conway Symphony Orchestra, founded in 1984, performs a full season of six high quality, professional concerts, including a free outdoor community concert, a holiday performance, and a children's concert. The CSO also offers a classroom program to local elementary and intermediate schools and has many ensemble performances throughout the year.