Wednesday, March 30, 2011
WestConn gets state bonding for $80 million performing arts center
Eileen FitzGerald, Staff Writer
Updated 11:20 p.m., Tuesday, March 29, 2011
DANBURY -- Western Connecticut State University professors cheered the news Tuesday that the long-awaited Visual and Performing Arts Center has been granted state funding, with construction expected to begin this fall.
WestConn President James Schmotter learned Tuesday morning that Gov. Dannel P. Malloy has approved bonding for the $80 million building, which has been on the university's wish list for 20 years and in planning for about eight. Schmotter said he understood it was one of two "shovel-ready" projects in the Connecticut State University System that received Malloy's go-ahead.
"It's been a long struggle for us, so this is really exciting," Schmotter said Tuesday. "The design work is done. The faculty have been working with a team of architects for two years."
Schmotter said the building is an important part of the university's 10-year master plan, which is now in its fourth year.
WestConn, which has the only School of Visual and Performing Arts in the state university system, plans to break ground in the fall and open the building in 2014. The 135,000-square-foot facility will be sited on the existing parking lot between the Westside Student Center and the O'Neill Center.
Plans call for the $80 million building to feature a 337-seat concert hall, a 330-seat theater, design studios and a gallery for the art department. A two-story central lobby will serve as a gathering space for the facility, with access to the quadrangle and outdoor loggia.
The theater department will have a scene shop and costume shop and a theater with a stage lift and trap room in the new facility.
In 1992, when Trapani first arrived at WestConn, he said then President James Roach told him about the plan for a new performing arts center, and now it's coming true, 20 years later.
The theater program, which has added a popular musical-theater curriculum, is also pursing national accreditation, which all the top theater arts programs have, Trapani said.
"This building will be a magnet. We do great work here, but it's hard," he said. "This building is going to take us to another level."
Music students will practice in two rehearsal rooms, 30 smaller practice rooms and a recording studio, while the art department will have new design studios, classrooms and a gallery.
"We've done a lot with nothing in the art department, but this provides us with a fully functional facility and space that will be attractive to our potential students," Art Department Chairman Terry Wells said.
The department chairs in art, music and theater, and their associate chairs have worked with architects on the design phase for the past two years to ensure the building satisfies the university's curriculum needs.
"We've worked so long and hard over the years for this," Wells said. "The process faltered and stopped and restarted."
Contact Eileen FitzGerald at firstname.lastname@example.org or at 203-731-3333.