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The Murphy Arts District is preparing for Phase II of their multi-million dollar project, which is expected to include renovations of several downtown staple buildings, including the Rialto movie theater and the McWilliams building.

Pam Griffin, president and chief operating officer for MAD, said they are still fundraising to begin construction. Phase II has been broken up into its own two phases, A and B. Phase IIA will be the McWilliams building’s renovation into a top tier art gallery, while Phase IIB will include the renovation of the Rialto into a theater.

“We should have a timeline by the end of the year,” Griffin said.

Griffin took over the president and COO position in January, after former president and COO Austin Barrow stepped down. She said the transition has been an easy one.

“As CFO (chief financial officer) I was wearing a lot of hats already,” she said. “So moving into this position, I am still doing a lot of what I already was before. … It’s been very good.”

Bob Tarren, chief marketing officer, said MAD’s goals and vision have not changed under Griffin’s leadership; he said they are still committed to providing entertainment and driving economic development in El Dorado.

“The vision is unchanged,” he said. “The operational leadership is all that’s changed, and Pam has been doing a great job there.”

Performances have already begun to be booked for this fall and next year. Griffin could not give any hints as to what El Dorado residents should expect, but said she is excited about all the acts booked so far.

“Our success will be judged by our ability to promote economic development in El Dorado and Union County,” Tarren said. “Future growth for MAD looks like continued growth in patrons, continued growth in ticket buyers, continued growth in restaurant-goers and continued growth in the number of events.”

MAD announced their line-up for MusicFest XXXII Friday, drawing both negative and positive feedback from El Dorado residents and others interested in the festival. Walk the Moon, lovelytheband, Brett Young and Gone West, which features Colbie Caillat, will headline.

“We are pleased at the kind of comments we are getting from the people who have said for years that they didn’t like our line-up,” Tarren said. “We were hoping that a certain segment would say ‘great,’ and that’s what we’ve seen. … We hope that people will recognize how hard this group is working to bring cool acts.”

Tarren was referring to a programming committee responsible for booking all of MAD’s acts. With the ouster of former booking agent Mark Givens last year, the programming committee was formed and has since booked all Thursday and Saturday Night Live performances since Givens’ departure, as well as other concerts and performances that have taken place at MAD.

“You can’t make everybody happy, but we’re pleased with the comments we have seen,” Tarren said. “We’ve gotten a lot of phone calls; not everybody comments on social [media].”

Tarren encouraged people with ideas for future programming to call the MAD home office at 870-863-4547 to give their suggestions.

“We’re working hard on behalf of everyone,” Tarren said.

To learn more about the Murphy Arts District, visit

Caitlan Butler can be reached at 870-862-6611 or

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