Spirits Soar at Performing Arts Center Groundbreaking

Energized by the preview performance of Brian Balmages' ('98) "Portraits in Bluestone" moments before, donors, community leaders, professors, students, alumni and administrators joined to break ground for the university's new state-of-the-art performing arts center on October 26th.

Rose Speaking

The groundbreaking for the future 174,524-square-foot performing arts center, which kicked off Homecoming, occurred at a rain location in front of Wilson Hall. The actual site of the Center is on South Main Street across from JMU's historic Quadrangle. The location of the state-of-the-art facility is at the southern end of the Harrisonburg Arts and Cultural District.

Ground breaking audio

Interim Dean Johnson and President Rose
President Rose recognizes donors
Dean Johnson narrates the groundbreaking

JMU President Linwood H. Rose and Dr. Marilou M. Johnson ('80), interim dean of the College of Visual and Performing Arts, joined major supporters in the groundbreaking to celebrate the Center and herald the start to a renaissance for the arts at JMU. Construction is scheduled to begin in 60 to 90 days with a targeted completion date of March 2010.

"The building will not only be one we will be proud of in terms of its visual appearance, but also one that will properly recognize the talents of our students and our faculty," said Rose in his abbreviated remarks as heavy rain poured on a white tent sheltering supporters and friends of the university. Rose acknowledged that many people are supporting the performing arts center and specifically recognized Ed and Susan Estes, Richard and Shirley Roberts, Elizabeth Swallow and Judith Strickler. "Every project that is of the size and complexity of this one requires people to be champions, requires that you have some individuals who are really ready to step up and take ownership of a project and a vision and help to make it a reality."


"It's not going to dampen our spirits," said Johnson of the heavy rain that forced the site change. "Our commitment has required great optimism, persistence and patience," she said before supporters and university officials donned hardhats to turn shovelfuls of dirt. "The realization of our dreams begins today as we stand together as partners."

Rose and Johnson both acknowledged the presence of Harrisonburg Mayor Rodney Eagle as symbolic of the community support the new Center has drawn.

With its state-of-the-art facilities for theatre, dance and music performances, rehearsal and support rooms, classrooms and faculty offices, the performing arts center will benefit the Shenandoah Valley by offering a high-quality home for outstanding concerts featuring JMU and guest artists.

The new Center will feature the Dorothy Thomasson Estes Center for Theatre and Dance with a proscenium theatre, a black box theatre for student productions, a dance performance studio theatre and customized academic and rehearsal space. The Center for Music Performance, encompassing the Shirley Hanson Roberts Concert Hall and Recital Hall, completes the new performing arts center.

Prior to the groundbreaking ceremony, the debut of "Portraits in Bluestone" by JMU alumnus Brian Balmages began in Wilson Hall Auditorium. The commissioned three-movement work celebrates JMU's 100th anniversary and featured the JMU Wind Symphony, Chorale and Orchestra. Johnson presented Balmages with a JMU Centennial medallion at the performance and said, "We're so proud you're a JMU alumnus."

"If you had any doubt in your mind at all about whether our students and our faculty deserved or needed a facility that matched their talent and their abilities, I think that was answered in the auditorium a few minutes ago," Rose said at the groundbreaking ceremony.

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