Fine and performing arts center

A progressing project

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Stephanie Rogers | Collegio Reporter

Since PSU’s Carney Hall was torn down in the late ‘70s, some faculty members say it’s been a long time coming to finally have a plan for a performing arts center on campus.
With plans to have the architectural designs and documents completed by late spring 2012, Paul Stewart, director of facilities planning, says the timeline for the overall project is not definite.
“We’re pretty optimistic and we just want to keep up the momentum,” Stewart said. “It is very much needed and it will fill a void that the university has been lacking.”
Estimated at 80,000 to 90,000 square feet, the center is to be located at the east corner of Homer and Ford streets, one block from the University Lake and will share parking with the Weede.
The two-story building is to be energy efficient throughout. Inside will contain a large lobby-circulation/reception area, a 1,100-seat performance hall, complete proscenium stage, curtain and orchestra pit. It will also feature a 250-seat theater, an art gallery, rehearsal hall, as well as dressing rooms, costume shop, scene shop, catering kitchen and loading docks. An outdoor courtyard is also included in the design.
Provost Lynette Olson said in an email that she remembers when she first arrived at PSU in 1996 and was amazed that there was not a performing arts center on campus.
“I believed this university would one day construct such a facility so I am thrilled it will be reality within a few years,” Olson said. “The purpose of PSU’s FPAC goes beyond entertainment. It will be a facility integral to our educational mission for use by students and faculty.”
Cynthia Allan, theater director and chairperson of the Communication Department, says she has been involved with the project since early 2005 when Olson first formed a committee to get the project going.
“It’s been quite a long journey and this will be the first time we’ve had theater space in 30 years,” Allan said. “It’s exciting.”
Currently, art galleries and performance venues are scattered throughout the campus in McCray, Porter and Grubbs halls. The proposed center would combine and highlight art, music and theater for students as well as allow them to work in one location.
“It will finally give us the space we need,” Allan said. “It will improve our ability to bring in patrons from the community and really be able to expand our program for new students to see what we’re really capable of.”
Allan also says classes will remain the same in Grubbs Hall, but plans for technical classes, such as costume and scene shop, would be moved to the new building.
Funding for the estimated $30 million project has been gradual ever since the initial $10 million anonymous donation, but Allan says she’s hoping the university will be able to raise the additional funds within the next 18-24 months.
Karl Kunkel, dean of the College of Arts and Sciences, says the performing arts center has been the university’s goal for years, and he’s been involved in the fundraising and promotional process since he came to PSU this fall.
“Right now I’ve been trying to raise money for the facility by promoting, attending meetings and interviews with city officials and potential donors,” Kunkel said. “I know we’ve had pledges and promises, but nothing can move forward until the money is raised and secured.”
Kunkel says he believes the center would give the campus a higher profile.
Also, as part of the fundraising effort, rooms are available for naming rights. Nothing has been approved concerning the naming rights for the center overall.
And because the state will not fund any part of the project, student fees might be needed if the goal amount isn’t reached.
President Steve Scott was able to elaborate more on the funding details via email.
“Our efforts now are focused on raising private money, and we are having good success thus far. However, the magnitude of the facility makes it unlikely that private dollars will cover the entire cost of the center,” Scott said. “It’s worth noting – and clearly disappointing – that the state will not fund any aspect of the project. We’ll have to raise all the money locally. Given that, we intend to work diligently to raise as much private money as possible in order to minimize the impact on student fees.”
Scott added the same approach was taken with the Bryant Student Health Center and that the university was able to provide a state-of-the-art facility at a minimal cost to students.
Still, he says a performing arts center is essential to the campus and community.
“I’m confident that the center’s events will enrich the lives of our students and the region in ways we can only imagine,” Scott said.

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