The artists have left the building

As I wander through the labyrinth of GT hallways, the question I keep asking is, “Where can I find the dance department?” And the answer I keep getting is, “Why on earth would dance be all the way over here in GT?”

A campus of higher education may contain smaller institutions, in the manner of Russian stacking dolls: A college may have schools, and a university may have colleges as well as schools.

When the former School of HASS evolved into a college in July, the remaining departments remained relatively unaffected. A new dean was put in place, but for the most part the College of HASS did not feel the same impact as the school of arts did.

The new school of arts is now entirely located in the GT Building, although some advisors, secretaries and faculty are still in the LA Building. Because of the number of students in performing arts programs, the new school may face several challenges in coming years, and at the front of the to-do list is obtaining a new performing arts building on campus.

The first draft of a case statement for a UVU Arts Center declares that the biggest challenge facing us all as a new university is space; “Former UVU President Sederberg calls it a crisis,” reads the opening summary.

Arts students have been dealing with space troubles for years. Theater students build sets in the parking lot. Musicians rehearse amongst exhaust fumes and engine rumblings from the auto shop next door. Art majors labor in the soft pall of dim fluorescent lighting — a condition poorly suited for drawing and painting. Dance students may face the biggest challenge of all, though, because the department is growing at a threateningly rapid pace. Some must travel to a studio in Lindon or elsewhere for class and practice, while others have transferred to other universities for a better facility, only to come back here for our better faculty (as attested to in the case statement).

The statement draft mentions that in the past five years, UVU’s students of the arts have been able to perform score music for Warner Bros.’ I AM LEGEND, symphonies in Carnegie Hall, and dance competitions at Blackpool. But to reach such accomplishments, they are confined to developing their talents in the campus’ proverbial garage.

When I spoke with Barbara G. Hammond, assistant dean of the school of arts, she described the envisioned arts center as a great aid to many arts students. Dance students in particular would work in a space tailored to their needs, accommodating choreography and practice, and theater students would have more room to rehearse. In addition, the Woodbury Museum would move into the new building, making it more immediately accessible to students.

Estimates suggest the building would cost between $60 million and $80 million; however, at least $20 million dollars must be raised through private donations and endeavors. Such substantial funding may not be accumulated for years.

The proposed arts center is just one of several new buildings lined up for construction in the university’s facility master plan. The master plan includes a new classroom building and new parking facilities as well as add-ons to the business and science buildings — the latter of which enjoys the foremost position on the list. The arts center is second. Only a sizeable increase in private donations could hasten its realization.

Until then, performing arts students and faculty will endure and continue to improve the school of arts’ growing prestige.

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