U.Va. announces new arts center

The Office of the Architect for the University announced a new home for performing and visual arts on Grounds late last week. Plans for a new arts center combine two previous projects focused on providing the University with a new performing arts center and a new home for the University art museum.

"Both projects have been on the horizon for a couple of decades," said Clo Phillips, University associate provost for institutional advancement. "Plans became serious in the late '90s when the President launched the 2020 planning commissions."

Until recently, however, the push for enhancing arts at the University had defined the new performing arts space and a new museum as two separate projects.

"This new project will house the two under one roof," Phillips said.

While spaces such as Old Cabell Hall currently serve as venues for performances on Grounds, the new plans are likely to provide higher-quality space for University arts.

The music department is among one of the University groups that will benefit from the new arts center.

According to Assistant University Architect Connie Wornock, the new center will allow the music department to have a more central location rather than being dispersed around Grounds as it is now. In addition, the new arts center will provide a better quality performance space with a higher capacity.

"The new performing arts center will offer a better performance and acoustically superior space," Wornocksaid. "The arrangement of the interior will offer more flexibility and allow for a lot more kinds of productions."

According to Wornock, the new facility will offer high-tech climate control and security for the University museum as well as superior acoustics for musical performances.

While actual plans for the new arts center have yet to be designed, the University is anticipating that the center will be approximately 120,000 square feet with a performance space capable of accommodating an audience of 1,600, Wornock said.

The new arts center will be located on the current site of the University-owned Cavalier Inn on the corner of Emmett Street and University Avenue.

Anticipated construction costs for the umbrella project incorporating the performing arts center and museum are between $97 and $98 million and funding will come from private donations and grants.

The largest gift toward the project to date was $22 million donated in the spring of 2003 by Carl and Hunter Smith. At the same time, the Smiths donated $1.5 million to launch the concert and marching band, which will be based in the new arts center, Philips said.

In order to select a design for the new arts center, the Office of the Architect is organizing a design competition to solicit potential plans from international architectural firms, Wornock said. A jury will select designs for the arts center from among the submissions.

According to Wornock, designs will take at least a year to create while the actual construction of the sizable arts center is likely to take at least 24 months. An official timetable for the project, however, has not been set.

The new arts center is intended to enhance the broader Charlottesville community as well.

"The community is a big component of the project," Wornock said. "Students will be able to be the performers, the tech-people, the people on-stage and behind the scenes and the community will be able to be involved"

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