Ann Crocker, representing the Sorenson family and the Sorenson Legacy Foundation, addresses the crowd as members of the Sorenson family look on at the dedication of the Beverley Taylor Sorenson Center for the Arts.

Ann Crocker, representing the Sorenson family and the Sorenson Legacy Foundation, addresses the crowd as members of the Sorenson family look on at the dedication of the Beverley Taylor Sorenson Center for the Arts.

Just as the ribbon was about to be cut officially opening the Beverley Taylor Sorenson Center for the Arts, a bright yellow monarch butterfly fluttered gracefully from the raised terrace, above the heads of the crowd gathered for the occasion, and up and over the new Utah Shakespeare Festival administration building. Most in the crowd didn’t notice, but those who did were captivated by this ephemeral visit that could easily symbolize the purpose of the new center and those who made it happen.

On this sunny July 7 morning, Ann Crocker, of the Sorenson Legacy Foundation, was speaking fondly of her mother (for whom the center is named) and of her deep-seated belief that the arts could lift us, enchant us, and beautify our world. It was her parents, James LeVoy Sorenson and Beverley Taylor Sorenson, who established the foundation which was the lead donor to the center. She was joined on the stage by several other Sorenson family members.

Also honored during the ceremonies were two other visionaries who were instrumental in the building of the $39.1 million complex: Fred C. Adams and Jimmie Jones.

Adams, who founded the Festival in 1962 with his late-wife, Barbara, has long dreamed of this day and of a world-class arts complex to be the home of the Festival. “This is an exciting weekend, one that we at the Festival and myself personally have been looking forward to for decades,” said Adams. “This arts center will provide inspiration and a place to reflect and learn for hundreds of thousands of guests and artists for years to come.”

Jones, who passed away in 2009, donated his artwork, his home, and other possessions to Southern Utah University to provide seed money for building the Southern Utah Museum of Art (SUMA). Art historians have dubbed Jones “the premier landscapist of southern Utah,” and his towering paintings of Zion, the Grand Canyon, and Cedar Mountain now grace the Jimmie Jones Gallery in SUMA.

The celebration continued that day with a dedication and ribbon cutting at SUMA and that evening with the same in the Engelstad Shakespeare Theatre. In between the dedications and continuing July 8 and 9 are three days full of parties, artist demos, concerts, and the Festival’s popular Greenshow, orientations, and play seminars, as well as much more. The complete calendar of events is at www.bard.org/schedule.

The center includes not only the Engelstad Theatre, but the new Eileen and Allen Anes Studio Theatre, the spectacular Southern Utah Museum of Art, the existing Randall L. Jones Theatre, offices and rehearsal space, a new costume shop, and beautiful walkways, patios, and sculpture gardens. The center, with visual arts, live theatre, and dynamic arts education will dramatically enrich the cultural life of SUU, Cedar City, and the surrounding area. It will be a year-round destination for hundreds of thousands of yearly visitors.

“Visually, what guests to the new center will see will be a contrast to what they’ve been accustomed to if they have attended the festival the past 30 or 40 years,” said R. Scott Phillips, Festival executive director. “It is a planned center, something that was designed with the notion of the performing and visual arts, rather than an experience that was built onto an existing building.”

Phillips is quick to note that this will enhance, not diminish the experience visitors will have. For instance, the new Engelstad Theatre is physically much larger than the Adams Shakespearean Theatre that housed the Festival for over 40 years. But the acting space and seating is nearly identical to the Adams Theatre. The increased size is to accommodate a larger foyer, wider and more open entrances, and more public space. But the distance from the front of the new stage to the last row in the balcony is very nearly the same as in the beloved Adams Theatre.

“Guests will have a feeling of something they remember or are accustomed to,” said Phillips. “The experience should be something that is very reminiscent of what they recall.”

Festival Artistic Director David Ivers agrees, noting the Festival environment will be greatly enhanced by being in one location, allowing guests to be immersed in an artistic experience. He is excited about having two new theatres to house world classics. “Our audiences will be challenged in these new space,” he said. “They will see and hear plays, even plays they have seen in the past, in ways they haven’t before.”

Ivers is also looking forward to SUMA being on the center. “For me, because I think that any medium of art should go hand-in-hand with any other, the art on the walls of the galleries and the art on the stage will build on each other, giving context to the work we all do.”

SUMA will include four galleries, visible storage, and classroom spaces. It will also be the permanent home to the artwork of the late Cedar City artist, Jim Jones. In 2016, SUMA will focus on the National Park Service Centennial. “It is an ideal collaboration that will encourage our visitors to not only ‘Find Their Park’ but also to find their museum,” said Reece Summers, SUMA director. “The first thing visitors will see when they enter the museum will be 15 large paintings of Zion and Grand Canyon National Parks by Jim Jones, who left his art, estate, and copyright to help build this new museum.”

“It’s quite phenomenal,” concluded Phillips. “When I first came as a student, the Adams Theatre was brand new. To go from that building then and watch the transformation to an entire complex, from a building that cost under one million dollars to this nearly forty million dollar project, is extraordinary.” 

Photos of the Celebration | Schedule of Events