Several University faculty members and recent studies conducted at the University have called for the building of a performing arts center as a part of the University’s plan to renovate the Ivy Corridor.
A task force created by University President Jim Ryan published a report last month outlining plans for dividing the Ivy Corridor into three nexuses — including the “Creativity and Experimental Arts Nexus,” which allocates the east end of the Emmet/Ivy property to the building of a center for the arts. It also includes a Discovery Nexus which calls for a center for transdisciplinary research and a Democracy Nexus that intends to strengthen democratic institutions through physical and virtual gathering spaces.
According to the report, the center “should provide flexible, configurable spaces hosting a continuum of innovative arts activities, from concerts and exhibitions, to workshops and classes, to research and the creation of new works.” The Board of Visitors discussed the performing arts center at a Buildings and Grounds committee meeting Feb. 28 but has not approved it.
In an interview with The Cavalier Daily earlier this month, Ryan said the report is part of a six year plan and that the performing arts center is currently in the pre-planning phase.
Another study — led by the the Office of the Provost and Vice Provost for the Arts and the Office of the Architect — also examined the need for a performing arts center. According to University Vice Provost for the Arts Jody Kielbasa, the approximately 90-page study also proposed combining the Fralin Museum of Art and the Kluge Ruhe Aboriginal Art Collection into one facility.
“Those are all possibilities that I guess are under consideration — and again — nothing is finalized,” Kielbasa said.
The need for larger facilities is the primary reason for a performing arts center, Kielbasa said.
“Performances of size need to be accommodated,” Kielbasa said. “We’re limited because we don’t have facilities to do large dance performances, to bring in touring productions, visiting artists or troupes. The performing arts center study indicated that with current U.Va. programming, we could fill that center at least 240 evenings a year.”
Over the past two years, several studies — including one by the College Graduate School of Arts and Sciences — have outlined the need for a performing arts center at the University. Old Cabell Hall, which frequently hosts University arts programs, lacks the resources of a performing arts center, Kielbasa said.
“There are a number of things that cannot be accommodated in Old Cabell Hall, including theatrical shows,” Kielbasa said. “By and large, it’s a musical recital hall. I believe we’re the only major college in the Commonwealth of Virginia that does not have a performing arts center.”
James Madison University, Virginia Tech, George Mason University, Washington and Lee University and Virginia Commonwealth University have on-campus performing arts centers.
The Moss Arts Center at Virginia Tech opened in 2013. Benjamin Rous, music director of the
Charlottesville Symphony, conducted the Charlottesville Symphony at the Moss Center’s opening gala.
“It galls me that Virginia Tech has the Moss Center and we have nothing,” Rous said. “Tech is beating us. And I think a lot of people around town recognize that, not just me, and there’s a lot of energy right now about fixing that situation.”
In an email statement to The Cavalier Daily, University Deputy Spokesperson Wes Hester said a specific location for a performing arts center has not been determined since the project first needs to be approved by the Board of Visitors. If approved, the project is expected to cost between $120-$140 million and construction would begin in 2022 with an end date in 2024.