DANBURY, Conn. -- The new School of Visual and Performing Arts Center took center stage Thursday as university and civic officials gathered proudly for its grand opening at Danbury's Western Connecticut State University.
Also in attendance was Tim Milford, 22, of New Milford, a jazz performance major. Although he is taking his classes in his final year at the downtown campus, he works in the music department and the new center. He said the new venue shows the university's commitment to the arts.
"The building is a symbol of the importance of the arts," he said after the 10:30 a.m. ceremony.
That was a point also mentioned by Danbury Mayor Mark Boughton, who is a WCSU graduate.
"We will be molding the future generation to appreciate the arts," he said.
The 130,000-square-foot building is located on the university's West Side campus at 43 Lake Ave. Ext. The groundbreaking ceremony for the $97 million project was held in 2011.
University President James Schmotter exulted in the building's grand opening.
"Years of imagining and imagination became reality," he said. "It has revitalized and re-energized this campus."
The building's construction also played a large role in ensuring that historically underrepresented groups were involved, said Anthony Dematteo of contractor Dimeo Construction.
He said that 23 percent of the workforce was female and minorities while another 7 percent were apprentices. In addition, small businesses and minority small businesses were also involved in the construction, he said.
The impressive and imposing structure is made of 1,400 tons of steel and 105,000 bricks. The unique architecture celebrates and inspires the art studies inside it.
Dan Goble, dean of the Visual and Performing Arts School, said the university that has always played a leading role in the education of people in the arts and will continue to work hard to do so.
"It is really a momentous occasion for Western," he told about 200 people - including former Gov. M. Jodi Rell - gathered by the building's entrance. "The hard work is now ahead of us."
There will also be a gala opening at the center on Sept. 28.
Art students will benefit from light shining through double-height, northern-exposed windows in the spacious painting and sculpture studios. They will work in photography and graphic design studios equipped with both the latest computer technology and the legacy technology of traditional film development. The Art Gallery features northern-exposed light, a Panelock 200 display system, all atop end-cut maple flooring.
Music students will rehearse and perform in the Concert Hall, which features a tri-level, in-the-round seating experience for an audience of up to 350; variable acoustics; and state-of-the-art performance audio and lighting. A recording studio will house WCSU’s new Audio and Music Production degree program.
Theater students will perform on the facility’s Main Stage Theater and Studio Theater — both loaded with technology and functionality beyond many Broadway venues. Two theater rehearsal studios, both equipped with audio/visual technology and sprung dance floors complement the university’s increasingly popular musical theater program. Dressing rooms, practice rooms and individual Master of Fine Arts in Visual Arts studios are all incorporated into the spaces.