President Charles Steger was recently found writing on university property.
On Wednesday and Thursday, two steel beams, which will be placed in the new Center for the Arts, were present outside of Shultz Dining Hall to be signed by community members. Steger was present Wednesday morning to add his signature to the crowd of Sharpie-written names.
Ruth Waalkes, the executive director of the Center for the Arts, said Steger has been closely involved with the arts programs on campus since he took office in 2000.
“There has been conversation for many, many years about developing an art center like this,” Waalkes said. “In his inaugural address, he put forward the idea of increasing the presence of the arts here on campus and making sure we can provide arts and cultural opportunities for students at Virginia Tech.”
The center incorporates into the master plan a renovation of downtown Blacksburg.
Blacksburg mayor Ron Rordam stated that when the downtown plans where first mapped out, the concept of an art district came up. He hoped it would bolster the quality of life for residents and bring visitors to the town.
The genesis of the center as it is today emerged in 2005 when Minnis Ridenour — a current senior fellow for resource development — launched the Arts Initiative Steering Committee. In addition to raising project funds from private donors, Ridenour brought in Waalkes from the University of Maryland.
Waalkes served as director of artistic initiatives at Maryland’s Clarice Smith Performing Arts Center and was also hired before it opened. She looks forward to bringing Tech’s newest arts project to life.
“We will be doing programming where we will be presenting performing artists and touring artists,” Waalkes said. “We’ll have people from the arts, as well as from engineering and science who are working on collaborative projects there.”
The center will encompass the current Shultz Hall and incorporate several new structures being built around it. The building will include a 1,260-square-foot performance hall holding 1,300 seats, two visual arts galleries and several studios to be used for interdisciplinary projects.
The studios will also be utilized by the Institute for Creativity, Arts and Technology, a university-level research institute that heads projects combining the arts, technology and education. The state provided $27 million, largely for research done by ICAT, such as their work with K-12 educators. The university has put forward $38 million in support of the center, while $28 million is being raised from donors to fund the remainder of the budget.
Fundraising efforts include the opportunity for donors to have portions of the center named after themselves or loved ones. The theater, the orchestra pit and the amphitheater have already been named, while the courtyard, the backstage suite and the balcony boxes have yet to receive names. The center itself will be named after a donor.
The creative idea of signing the final beams came from the construction company building the center. Scott Maeger, senior superintendent with Holder Construction, said this is a major accomplishment of finishing a project.