Study of performing arts centre approved
It’s an idea whose time appears to have arrived.
At its March 31 meeting, the Board of Governors agreed to spend $100,000 to explore the possibilities for a Fine and Performing Arts Centre at the U of S, a project that has been talked about, off and on, for many years.
“A centre like this is something that I understand has been spoken about formally and informally for almost exactly 40 years,” according to Peter Stoicheff, associate dean of humanities and fine arts in the College of Arts and Science. “It has been a long time in the works.”
Heather Magotiaux, vice-president of University Advancement, explained the money approved by the board will come from undesignated donations to the Thinking the World of Our Future capital campaign, and will be used to conduct a feasibility study to “tell us how much we can reasonably expect to fundraise, and from where.”
The study will identify potential donors, both local and national, as well as other fundraising campaigns for arts facilities that would be competing for the same dollars.
It will also measure interest in combining the arts centre with a sports complex, including a twin ice arena. This idea, said Magotiaux, “is purely exploratory but both would bring people to campus, both are performance venues of a sort, and they both share certain common needs like washrooms, concessions and ticket booth. I think the two can work very nicely together…(but) it may be the marriage doesn’t work. That’s something we’ll find out in the feasibility study.”
Stoicheff said there are very practical reasons for a fine and performing arts centre, not the least of which is the fact the University’s three fine arts departments – music, drama, and art and art history – “are housed in places that are physically untenable for them.”
Music is in the Education Building, drama in the John Mitchell Building, and art and art history is in space in the Murray Building that does not have ventilation adequate enough for the University to offer courses in oil painting. “Does that not strike you as appalling?” asked Magotiaux.
Stoicheff said combining the departments under one roof would see “a lot of things that aren’t happening begin to happen” such as musical theatre. An arts centre would also allow the University to rebuild connections to the off-campus arts community, connections that “through nobody’s fault or design, have gradually withered away over the years.”
A number of locations have been considered for an arts and sports centre, but the favorite so far is on Cumberland Avenue south of College Drive. Stoicheff however, has concerns: “There is no other academic unit over there…(and) it might serve to further sever arts from the rest of campus.”
The dean of Kinesiology has a different view. Carol Rogers said the south campus area “is a great spot from a visual perspective in linking the community with the campus,” and it is one that would keep sports activities in close proximity to each other. Combining sports and arts creates unique opportunities “because a lot of movement is performance. This (centre) takes it to another level.”
Rogers added a twin ice area tops the facilities priority list for the college, “and to be blunt, it would help with the costs” to have a second rink to rent out.