Dreams for a decade, action now
A Q&A with Bob Hupp, producing artistic director of the Arkansas Repertory Theatre
What is your first memory of Main Street?
That would have been when I arrived to work here at The Rep, and my first impression was how desolate Main Street was. I told someone that I felt like Charlton Heston in the film "The Omega Man." And The Rep seemed to be sort of an island on Main Street.
How have you seen it evolve over the years since then?
For the last, let's say 13 of the last 14 years, it was some wonderful conversations about potential and some wonderful dreams about what Main Street could be. It was pretty much status quo. But then in the last two years the conversation has changed entirely, and for the first time in my time here I am genuinely optimistic about the future of Main Street and the revitalization of Main Street.
I know you guys just had a major remodeling project, but let's say you could move The Rep to another part of town. Would you want to do that or would you want to stay on Main Street, and why?
No, I would always want us to stay on Main Street. I know the city has moved west in many ways, but Main Street in my opinion is still the heart of our community. The Rep's identity since the mid-'80s has been directly tied to Main Street, and I really believe that this is where our city begins. This is still the psychological center of our city, and I think that this is where the arts should be and this is where The Rep should be.
How would you envision Main Street continuing to evolve, ideally? What would be some specific things you'd like to see happen?
I think the idea of defining this portion of Main Street — that is to say the central portion — as an arts corridor is key. Because if you look around across cities around the country it's the arts that revitalize neighborhoods. I also see this wonderful conversation about mixed-use activities on Main Street as being essential, in addition to arts and other forms of entertainment and restaurants and housing — affordable housing. I really feel strongly that the housing needs to be affordable so that artists and young people can afford to live in our downtown. That combination of the arts, of retail and other types of activities for the community, along with residents, people who can live here, really that's where revitalization will happen.
And you can see that. You can see that in SoMa, you can see it in Argenta and here we are in the center of that corridor and now you're starting to see it happen. So in my ideal vision, you've got a vibrant SoMa, you've got a vibrant arts corridor and you've got Argenta, so that Main Street has specific identities.