January 6, 2014
One of Fondren’s premiere event spaces is under new management.
Arden Barnett has entered into a long-term lease of Duling Hall as of this month. The deal was finalized last week between Barnett and Mike Peters of Peters Development. Peters, who may be best known for his revitalization of Fondren Corner ten years ago, brought Duling School and its auditorium, Duling Hall, back to life in 2009.
Barnett says that, by signing this lease, the future of Duling Hall is certain and that the venue is on a path of growth. “Duling Hall has been one of the top event venues in the city and we will certainly continue to make the room available for private and public use,” he says.
As founder of ardenland, Barnett says live music is an ongoing commitment and that he has 35 shows booked for Duling in the first quarter of 2014 alone.
While being able to make physical improvements to the building and changes in branding are two of the significances of his lease, Barnett says the biggest plus for him is permanency. “For ardenland, it’s home sweet home,” he explains. “Having a home base is going to certainly increase our ability to host national acts on a more regular and consistent basis.”
He does, however, make it clear that this acquisition does not bring to an end the larger shows that his company promotes. “We actually see a brilliant 2014 filled with larger shows at venues such as Hal & Mal’s, Jackson Academy Performing Arts Center, Mississippi Coliseum and, hopefully, Thalia Mara Hall.”
For the past two-plus years, Barnett has worked with other businesses in the Fondren neighborhood to become a rallying cry to the rest of Jackson that neighborhoods can be hip and artsy and still be a driving force to the local economy. “Our city as a whole needs to give people reasons to stay in Jackson, entice new people to live in our community and to promote tourism,” he says. “In my mind, the arts and a growing economy go hand in hand. Â The Fondren neighborhood is certain proof that it is working.”
Barnett doesn’t take his role in this growth lightly and says he feels an immense amount of responsibility to the neighborhood. “This week, we’ll be expanding our ‘pay it forward’ ticket program to other Fondren businesses,” he says of his free concert admission program. ardenland will issue 300 Duling Hall concert tickets to Fondren businesses for them to distribute to their patrons at their discretion.Â “It is our hope that managers and employees will be on the lookout for random acts of kindness to show to others.”
Barnett says he can’t do this without a host of wonderful people around him. “If it were not for the faith that Mike Peters and Andrew Mattiace has placed in our efforts over the past few years, this would not have been possible and we are grateful.Â I have to give a huge shout out to my wife Heidi and our team: Britini Breazeale, Chuck Bryan, Angie Ladner, Tyler & Amanda Raborn and our fantastic street team, all who are to be commended for their dedication & hard work.”