Going MAD: Looking Ahead in the Murphy Arts District


The Murphy Arts District will open Sept. 27 with a five-day celebration that will host dozens of artists.

The downtown El Dorado district is intended to bring new growth and life to southern Arkansas through music, arts, food and more. The community that MAD builds will last much longer than five days – and the artistic and cultural influences MAD brings to the town will leave their mark.

MAD executives expect a big turnout at the opening event and they plan to keep the momentum going by bringing a diverse range of arts and entertainment to El Dorado.

Tickets for the opening weekend are on sale now to see acts like Brad Paisley, Natasha Bedingfield, Train, X Ambassadors, ZZ Top, Ludacris, Migos and Smokey Robinson.

BUY TICKETS: Click here to buy Murphy Arts District tickets

Mark Givens, MAD’s vice president of entertainment, who researches and books acts and artists for the district, says he’s “excited for the entire lineup especially Train, Ludacris and Migos.” He’s also looking forward to seeing X Ambassadors.

Givens says he’s seen all the acts, except Migos.

“I can attest that our lineup is not only full of star power, but exceptional live entertainers as well,” he says.

Many of the acts have a connection to Arkansas, whether they’ve been through the area before or call the Natural State home.

LEARN MORE: Click here to read more about the Murphy Arts District

“We have several local acts mixed in with the regional and nationals acts during the Grand Opening weekend. Age of Man, Emily Cole and Blackstrap are from El Dorado and are fantastic,” Givens says. “Regionally, we have Dazz & Brie, Rodney Block and deFrance from central Arkansas, Maggie Koerner and Dash Rip Rock from New Orleans, The Burners from Memphis, etc… It’s a great lineup!”

“What we did note from the beginning was that we wanted it to be as diverse of a lineup as we could possibly make it, to have as many different kinds of music over several days as we could possibly put together,” MAD President and COO Austin Barrow says.

“The goal was to assemble a diverse group of acts that would have as much crossover appeal as possible and I feel like we accomplished that with our lineup,” Givens says.

When the second phase of the Murphy Arts District is complete, it will include a $32 million renovation of the 1920s Rialto Theater, the addition of a 10,000-square-foot art gallery and exhibition hall, and living quarters for visiting artists.

MAD Chief Marketing Officer Bob Tarren says the district aims to be “much more than a music venue.”

In addition to the five days of big-name acts, MAD officials are looking at bringing comedians, fashion shows, artists like Blue Man Group and even wrestling events to El Dorado.

“We’re always looking for something unique and different,” Givens says. “We have the Shanghai Circus coming this fall and I’ve never booked an act quite like that. We’re also hoping to integrate comedy into our programming. That will be a first for me personally, but something I’m excited about.”

“We’re going to use our venues for the entire spectrum of entertainment,” Tarren says. “Because that’s what an arts district does.”

After the opening, the people behind the district won’t be taking a break. Less than a week after Smokey Robinson leaves the stage in the MAD Amphitheater, Selah and Jason Crabb will bring the Your Love is Unbreakable Tour to El Dorado on Thursday, Oct. 5.

Later in October, Jerry Douglas will play in the Griffin Music Hall on Oct. 20. A day later, Jeans ‘n Classics will bring the sounds of The Beatles to southern Arkansas. Shortly before Halloween, on Oct. 28, MAD will throw a costume party with live music from Zapp, a funk group that has been together since the 1970s.

November kicks off with a show from The Beach Boys on the 1st. Be transported back to the ‘80s when you hear The Molly Ringwalds on Nov. 4 in the Griffin Music Hall.

The El Dorado Film Fest, which showcases more than 50 films from around the world, will be held Nov. 9 until Nov. 12 in El Dorado.

Meet the “godfathers of rockabilly music” when The Legendary Pacers come to town on Nov. 10. See celebrity when Dennis Quaid & The Sharks make a stop in southern Arkansas on Nov. 11. Quaid isn’t “just another actor-turned-rock star, he is a rock star,” according to the event description.

The Acrobats of China will “showcase traditional Chinese dance and cutting-edge physical performance art” when they take the Griffin Music Hall stage on Dec. 1.

Warm up in the Griffin Music Hall with Phil Vassar and Kellie Pickler during the El Dorado stop on A Christmas Tour on Dec. 9. Then, continue your country Christmas with Home Free when they bring “new music, new production, more country and holiday favorites” to town on Dec. 17.

See the full calendar and buy tickets at eldomad.com/calendar. Stay tuned for announcements about MAD events coming up in 2018 and don’t miss the district’s opening weekend.

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