El Dorado, Ark., may not be known for its arts, culinary or music offerings, but rather for its history as an oil boomtown. With the Murphy Arts District (MAD) debuting in September, that could be changing. The $100 million development includes a music, entertainment and restaurant complex that will open in phases.

“The past five years has seen a very strong effort toward revitalization in the downtown core,” president of Murphy Arts District, Austin Barrow, explained.

The $54 million Phase I of the MAD development focuses on the 1928 Griffin Auto Company Building, which was once an assembly center and showroom for Model T Fords. The venue’s renovation features a farm-to-table restaurant, cabaret lounge and 2,000-seat music hall, and will overlook a new 8,000-capacity amphitheater.

“Many industry people think I’m ‘MAD’ when I tell them about the El Dorado project, but it’s going to be the most important work of my career when one considers the lives that will be changed by the economic redevelopment and cultural infusion we are working to achieve,” Chief Executive Officer Terry Stewart, the former CEO and president of the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, said. “We are bringing song, dance, good food and theater to a community and region that has long been underserved.”

Phase II is a $32 million renovation of the 1920s Rialto Theater, the creation of a 10,000-square-foot art gallery and exhibition hall as well as artist-in-residence quarters.

“The Rialto Theater will be restored to its original state with music, second-run movies, live HD broadcasts of productions, Broadway tours, comedy and locally produced content,” Barrow said. “With more than 850 seats, it will be available for rental.”

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