Virginia Tech officially unveiled design plans and architectural renderings yesterday for the new Center for the Arts to be located at the intersection of North Main Street and Alumni Mall.
The university’s Board of Visitors approved the 130,000-square foot, $89 million project during Monday’s meeting. Construction will begin in the fall. The opening of the center is set for the summer 2013.
Tuesday’s reception featured remarks from the center’s executive director Ruth Waalkes, Tech provost Mark McNamee and Blacksburg mayor Ron Rordam. Officials from various area cultural centers, such as the Taubman Museum of Art in Roanoke and the Roanoke Symphony Orchestra, were present along with Tech administrators and faculty and members of the Blacksburg Town Council.
McNamee said during his remarks that the new center “is truly a remarkable opportunity,” for Tech’s current arts program.
The center will feature a 1,300-seat performance hall, multiple visual arts galleries and the new Center for Creative Technologies in the Arts.
The performance hall will be large enough to accommodate activities such as theater, music and dance exhibitions. The visual arts galleries will have the ability to house traditional arts as well as digital media. The center hopes to work closely with the Taubman Museum to develop exhibits and educational outreach programs.
The Center for Creative Technologies in the Arts is designed to be a new hub for education at both the collegiate and K-12 levels that will bring together technological artistic mediums such as animation, digital audio and film, graphic and Web design.
McNamee said during his remarks that one of the goals of the center will be to “extend the arts to a broader community.”
“Through the arts, students can learn critical thinking skills,” he said.
McNamee said the center would reach out extensively to K-12 students in the New River Valley.
Waalkes said during her remarks that she envisions the center as a “dynamic and vibrant gathering place” that would hopefully serve as a national model of a university arts center.
In strengthening Tech’s partnership with the New River Valley and the town of Blacksburg, the Center for the Arts also hopes to be an “engine of economic growth” in downtown Blacksburg, according to McNamee.
“This will be a magnet for people to move here,” he said.
During his remarks, Rordam said the center’s location at the border of the Tech campus and downtown Blacksburg will help to bring the community and the university closer.
“The downtown master plan called for Blacksburg to become a major arts destination,” he said. “(The Center for the Arts) will be the anchor."
Rordam said one of the motivations for the town’s current $15 million road renovation project is to create a pedestrian-friendly environment for patrons of the new center.
“We hope we can do more in the future,” he said. “This is not just Virginia Tech, Blacksburg or Montgomery County. The impact will spread out into the New River Valley and help us achieve that goal
of Blacksburg being an arts destination.”
Waalkes, who was previously director of artistic initiatives at the Clarice Smith Performing Arts Center at the University of Maryland, said after Tuesday’s event that she is looking forward to the center not only fostering performances but interacting with the community.
After giving his remarks, McNamee said he hoped the center was “going to elevate Virginia Tech as one of the top universities.”
“This will put us over the top,” he said. “It will have the ability to attract multi-talented students.”
Funding for the project will come from a collaboration of private and public money. Tech is providing $33.2 million, the state of Virginia is providing $27.8 million and the remaining $28 million will come from private donations.
“We’re confident we’ve got the resources,” McNamee said.
Ian Colburn, a 2003 Tech graduate who is now one of the lead architects working on the project, said he hoped students would reap great benefits from having the “anchored location for the arts.”
“Students can learn new ideas and then practice those ideas,” Colburn said.
Colburn said he was happy to be part of the project through his architecture firm because of his affiliation with Tech.
Waalkes said the center was “a compelling vision” that would “benefit students and impact the quality of life in the region.”
“The arts serve as the way to improve the way we live in the world,” she said.