Southern Utah University announced today that it has received a $6 million gift from the Sorenson Legacy Foundation to create a multi-million dollar arts center encompassing new facilities, as well as ongoing support for ArtsFUSION, which provides professional development and pre-service training for elementary educators as well as outreach and workshops for students and teachers in rural Utah.
Working in partnership with the Utah Shakespeare Festival, the new center will further establish SUU as a regional arts mecca.
Named for the long-time arts and education champion, the Beverley Taylor Sorenson Center for the Arts will incorporate visual arts, live theater and dynamic arts education on the SUU campus and will dramatically magnify the cultural life of Cedar City and its surrounding region. It will also serve as home to the Southern Utah Museum of Art (SUMA) and the new Shakespeare Theatre of the Utah Shakespeare Festival, and will include an artistic/production building for the Festival. Sculpture gardens and other
outdoor features will also be included on the grounds.
In addition to Sorenson's contribution, the $30 million center is being made possible thanks to the generosity of hundreds of insightful and invested benefactors. A gift of $5 million for the New Shakespeare Theatre and Festival outreach programs was received from the Ralph and Betty Engelstad Family Foundation of Las Vegas, Nev. The George S. and Dolores Dorè Eccles Foundation has committed $3 million toward the project.
Additionally, the State of Utah, Iron County and Cedar City have all energetically supported this effort to create a center for the arts in southern Utah.
The Festival had been engaged in a fundraising campaign for several years to replace the deteriorating and less-than-suitable Adams Memorial Shakespeare Theatre, while the funding process for the University's SUMA kicked off in late 2009 when the renowned painter Jim Jones bequeathed his home and final collection of paintings to ignite the work. It was not until mid-2012 that combining the facilities on one site was explored and later approved by campus and state officials.
"Although both SUMA and the New Shakespeare Theatre project had been previously proposed and approved, we felt there were economies and efficiencies that could be realized in combining some of the functions of both the museum and the theatre," said SUU President Michael T. Benson. "Further, the opportunity to create a cultural nexus in the heart of our community, one that would be a year-round draw for tens of thousands of visitors, was another enormous benefit in twinning these facilities."
The decision to name the center for Sorenson was an easy and natural one, as she has formidably supported the arts at SUU and across the state throughout her life, particularly as a tool to enrich the lives and futures of children.
"We are privileged to name our Center for the Arts in honor of Beverley and her vision of the power of art in improving quality of life, particularly when it touches the lives of children," said Dean of Performing and Visual Arts Shauna Mendini. "It is essential that her legacy of love for the arts be echoed throughout the entire state of Utah through the Beverley Taylor Sorenson Center for the Arts.
This long-held vision, coupled with Sorenson's generous financial support, has set her apart as a tireless advocate for arts education. Sorenson and the Sorenson Legacy Foundation have committed tens of millions of dollars to establishing a strong and lasting foundation of arts education in Utah. She has been repeatedly lauded for her commitment by several of Utah's institutions of higher learning, and at SUU alone has been recognized with an honorary doctorate, a place in the University's Hall of Honor, and
with a Lifetime Achievement Award at the 2013 Founders' Day celebration.
"As home to the Utah Shakespeare Festival, Southern Utah University is known throughout Utah and the world for its dedication to the absolute best in arts education and performance," said Ann Crocker, president of the Sorenson Legacy Foundation and daughter of Beverley. "It is an honor to be able assist the University and further our mother's dream of making high-quality arts a reality for everyone."
The Sorenson Legacy Foundation previously donated more than $3 million to Southern Utah University to fund the Emma Eccles Jones Teacher Education Building, an endowed chair position for elementary arts education, and scholarships and arts education programs. In 2006 the College of Education and Human Development was named the Beverley Taylor Sorenson College of Education in honor of her generous support. The J.L. Sorenson Physical Education Building is also housed on SUU's campus, named after Beverley's late husband, James LeVoy Sorenson, a renowned medical device inventor, entrepreneur and philanthropist.
While the campus celebrates the most recent donations and pledges, as well as news of the state authorization to begin the project, fundraising efforts continue and naming opportunities for important facets of the Beverley Taylor Sorenson Center for the Arts exist. Gifts of all amounts are welcomed. To explore becoming a partner with the University in this momentous undertaking, please contact Donna Law at (435) 865-8182.