The groundbreaking for the new Beverly Taylor Sorenson Center for the Arts began at 3 p.m. sharp with opening statements from Utah Shakespeare Festival’s Artistic Directors David Ivers and Brian Vaughn.
Tough the wind blew with fervor, Utah Shakespeare Festival Media and Public Relations Manager Nikki Allen Koontz said they counted 800 bundled spectators before they stopped taking tally.
The diverse audience was comprised of students, community members, past and present university presidents, esteemed donors, civic leaders, statesman, resident artists, and important names from SUU, USF and the Southern Utah Museum of Art.
“The cultural landscape of Southern Utah will soon take a major step forward…” a press release issued by USF and SUU’s College of Performing and Visual Arts reported. The groundbreaking marks the beginning of a new era in art and culture in Cedar City, Utah, one where the arts assume a lead role in the community.
USF Founder Fred Adams said Thursday’s groundbreaking was the realization of a 30-year long dream that had finally come to fruition for him.
“I’m asked constantly ‘How do you feel?’ – numb,” he said. “It would be
The emotions that swelled within him were too big, and too many, to simplify with words, Adams said. The 2,600 donors who contributed to the $35 million dollars that will be allocated to the new BTS Center for the Arts were each indispensable he said, regardless of how much or how little they were able to contribute.
Former SUU President Michal T. Benson made a special appearance for the day to celebrate the fruit born of the many years of fundraising labor that began with a campaign he started in 2007, The Future is Rising. He said that though some may have thought his goals were similar to a madman’s dream, he knew from the beginning that something special was brewing.
He said the legacy that will live on through the livelihood of the new arts center would impact humanity and the arts for generations to come.
“People made a difference in this project, but this project will long outlive people,” He said. “It will be here for generations, and it will impact the lives of countless people.”
Benson shared a William Shakespeare quote with the audience that he said he found at Balboa Park in San Diego, Calif., saying he felt it was the best way to sum up what the BTS Center for the Arts will mean to the cultural climate in Cedar City, “So long as men can breathe, or eyes can see; so long lives this, and this gives life to the”.
Though the arts center isn’t planned to be ready to open doors until 2016, and funds are still being raised for the completion of the project, USF Executive Director R. Scott Phillips said he expects the time to fly by. He said a strong construction presence will not be felt for a while yet, but in the background they will be rerouting power lines, water lines, cables and other hazardous materials for several months working hard on the groundwork necessary to begin building.
“There’s a lot of work happening right now,” he said. “A lot of the buildings you see directly behind you, all of the homes along here and the building to the northwest corner over here, all have to come down.”
When the project is done, the only building left standing on the land used will be the Randall L. Jones Theatre.
In addition to SUMA, the BTS Center for the Arts will be home to a brand new outdoor theatre with a retractable roof dubbed the Engelstad Shakespeare Theatre. There will also be places for arts and craft workshops, and abundant gardens to wander.
“I can assure you when we open this facility in 2016 it will be something we can all be proud of,” Phillips said.