Oct 162008
Authors: Madeline Novey

Hundreds of university officials, CSU students and faculty, music maestros, Fort Collins High School alumni and community members turned out to celebrate the completion of the $45 million University Center for the Arts with an artistic ribbon-cutting ceremony, barbeque and a wide showing of musical performances Wednesday afternoon.

CSU President Larry Penley said at the ceremony, on the front steps of the UCA, housed in the old Fort Collins High School, that the new center would improve the quality of life and art education in the CSU community and championed the importance of the creative balance it brings to the university.

“This center provides a balance to the scientific aspect of CSU we know so well,” Penley said. ” “Once again, we will see (the old Fort Collins High School) as an active hub of learning and activity.”

At the conclusion of Penley’s speech, there were no ribbons or scissors to commemorate the grand opening of the UCA, but instead, a symbolic “ribbon” of dancers from the from the School of Arts.

Officials said they could not put their gratitude into words for the collection of private donors — the Bohemian Foundation, Griffin Foundation, Kenneth and Myra Monfort Foundation and the Serimus Foundation — and CSU students who invested millions of dollars into the 18-year project, that was started in 1995 when the university purchased the Fort Collins High School building.

In 2005, the president, Katie Clausen-Denman, and vice president, Ben Goldstein, went to the Student Fee Review Board and the University Facility Fee Advisory Boards with a proposal to increase the student facility fee. In the spring of 2005, both student boards, and subsequently the CSU System Board of Governors, voted to increase the fee, which allocated $29.6 million for the project.

Current vice president of ASCSU, Quinn Girrens, said that the money allocated to fund the project was well spent, will help to put the CSU School of the Arts on the map and improve the quality of education of performance and education.

Previously, the School of the Arts was located in the three-story music building on the west side of the oval. However, not all of the art forms — music, dance, theater and art — were under the same roof, which professors said caused problems with logistics and disrupted the ability of the program to move forward.

Now, in the world-class, 225,550-square-foot facility — which was completed Oct. 1 — all of the art forms can represent the school as a whole in the renovated old Fort Collins High school on Remington Street, east of campus.

“There’s not just one, but all of three of the main groups — dance, theater and music — were in substandard venues for years, and this move is an exponential step forward,” said Ann Gill, dean of the College of Liberal Arts.

“It’s cool that everything is in one building,” said Kayla Davila, a sophomore sports medicine major. “And while I’m a sports med major, I’m in marching band, and it’s nice to have everyone together in one place; it makes it easy.”

Officials said the new facility, that boasts five state-of-the-art performance venues, 36 soundproof rehearsal rooms, a professional-quality University Theatre and more, will give the School of Arts a competitive national edge and provide students and faculty with the facilities needed to produce art to the highest degree.

Other features of the UCA include 11 classroom and seminar rooms, two large acting labs, costume and scenic shops and three dance studios.

The Center for Biomedical Research in Music, a leading center in brain research in music perception.

Professors and students said that they are most impressed by the Edna Rizley Griffin Concert Hall, a 550-seat concert hall that features some of the most advanced acoustical design in the region.

“What we have in this facility is one of the best concert halls in the state for the students of CSU, and this center will enhance our music programs and help to expand our programs,” said Wes Kenney, professor of music and maestro of the CSU symphony. “There are very few places like it in the state, and I think we’re the envy of a lot of universities across the nation.”

Students in every major within the School of the Arts were impressed by the quality of the facilities and the simple things including air conditioning, the increased number of private practice rooms and the greatly expanded square-footage.

“We all fit in here and can fit in the hallways — that’s always nice,” said Cody Laun, a junior vocal performance major, waiving toward the UCA. “It’s wonderful because we have ample classroom space for one, and we don’t experience nearly as much conflict with double-booked space. It’s more organized now, and it’s absolutely fantastic.”

Overall, officials said that the new center represents a step forward for the university as an artistic competitor on the national level and is something that gives the university and its students an added sense of pride.

“It’s become one of the icons at the university,” Gill said. “The oval has always been that, but now, with the building right with the Trial Gardens right in front — it’s become an iconic symbol.”

Senior Reporter Madeline Novey can be reached at news@collegian.com.

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