Today the cultural landscape of southern Utah was forever changed as the first shovel broke ground on the long awaited Beverley Taylor Sorenson Center for the Arts on the campus of Southern Utah University. The Center is predicted to further establish Cedar City as a regional arts mecca.
It will serve as the home to the new Shakespeare theatre and a new studio theatre for the Utah Shakespeare Festival, an artistic/production building for the Festival, and the Southern Utah Museum of Art (SUMA). The Center also features a tree lined walkway and sculpture gardens and will offer many large public gathering spaces ideal for receptions and special events.
Dignitaries from across the state helped celebrate this momentous occasion including Julie Fisher, executive director of heritage and arts and member of the Governor’s cabinet; Senator Evan Vickers; Representatives John Westwood, Brad Last, Kay McIff, Don Ipson and Mike Noel, and Gage Froerer; Commissioner of Higher Education David Buhler and members of the Utah State Board of Regents; Ann Crocker President of the Sorenson Legacy Foundation; Utah State Building Board members Dave Tanner and Ned Carnahan; the project’s architects Kevin Blalock and his team from Blalock and Partners; city and county officials; Southern Utah University Trustees; and SUU presidents past and present.
At the groundbreaking ceremony, the Utah Shakespeare Festival revealed that the new outdoor Shakespeare theatre would be named after the Engelstad family. After receiving a $5 million gift in 2012, at that time the largest in the theatre company’s history, the Festival is proud to honor the Englestad Family Foundation of Las Vegas.
The Engelstad Theatre will still have the same intimate actor/audience relationship and will feel very similar to the current open air Adams Theatre. The space has updated amenities and modern accessibilities, including an elevator and increased ADA seating. The theatre will also have a flexible roof covering for inclement weather.
The Eileen and Allen Anes Studio Theatre was also announced during the ceremony. This new 200-seat studio will provide a third, flexible option for Festival programming, allowing the production of small, intimate plays to complement the offerings in the new Engelstad Theatre and the existing Randall L. Jones Theatre.
“For a quarter of a century the dream of a Shakespeare Center has been in the planning and fundraising stage,” said Festival Founder Fred C. Adams. “The new Beverley Taylor Sorenson Center for the Arts will be a lasting gift to the Festival, Cedar City and Southern Utah University. Beverley was a lifelong advocate and supporter of the arts. She firmly believed that reaching children through the arts will make them lifelong appreciators of what is good and noble in this world. Today is the fulfillment of that dream as we actually turn earth to signify that this will become a long awaited reality."
Festival Executive Director R. Scott Phillips remarked, “The Center will enable the Utah Shakespeare Festival and the SUMA to expand programming and continue to contribute to the economic vitality of Cedar City. SUU students, faculty, staff, and professional artists will have the opportunity to work and perform in these facilities perfecting their craft and creating lasting work. Upon completion, the Center will be a grand gathering place. I envision a future where every child in southern Utah will be able to experience professional live performances and participate in visual art regardless of geography, education, or economics."
Also included in the ceremonial program was detailed information about the Southern Utah Museum of Art (SUMA). This state-of-the-art museum will feature approximately 5,300 square feet of exhibition space composed of four galleries: the Braithwaite, the Rocki Alice, the Austin and Magda Jones and the Jim Jones which showcases work by the renowned Utah artist. SUMA will exhibit international and regional art, as well as that by art and design students and faculty.
The museum will have dedicated space for collection storage, care and research. The building design will allow visitors to witness the behind the scenes operations in the Maud Trismen Mason Collection and Conservation Studio. The Beverley Taylor Sorenson Education Suite includes 1,000 square feet and will provide classroom space for hands-on educational activities for K-12 school groups, and workspace for the SUU graduate and undergraduate students who will operate the museum.
“SUMA has been a labor of love by numerous individuals who have given generously,” said Dean of Performing and Visual Arts Shauna Mendini. “Topping the list is Cedar City’s treasure, Jim Jones. At the beginning of this project, Jimmy wrote a letter of introduction stating: ‘I propose to give all I have to the building of a Southern Utah Museum of Art. I have a home, paintings, and work by artists I have known and loved over the years. These, I propose, will be the seed from which, with your help, this project will grow.’ I can speak with confidence that Jimmy would be delighted with how his seed has grown. His life-long dream was to see a significant art museum built in Cedar City and today marks the realization of that dream.”
The Sorenson Legacy Foundation provided the lead gift of $6 million for the Beverley Taylor Sorenson Center for the Arts. Other major gifts were given from the George S. and Dolores Doré Eccles Foundation, Rocki Alice, the Ashton Family Foundation, Garth and Jerri Frehner, the Simmons Family Foundation, O.C. Tanner Company, Austin and Magda Jones, the estate of Jim Jones, the State of Utah, Iron County, and Cedar City Corporation.
The Center is expected to begin rising on the Southern Utah University campus this summer, with completion in 2016. The Festival will continue without interruption its current programming of eight shows and a free nightly Greenshow, as well as seminars, orientations, and backstage tours throughout the construction period.