A newly expanded performance complex at South Dakota State University in Brookings is setting the standard as an arts venue in the region, university and state arts leaders said.
The university recently completed a $49 million expansion of the Performing Arts Center on its campus, boosting the size of the complex from 60,000 to 150,000 square feet, and is currently in the middle of its reopening celebration, the Argus Leader reported.
The expansion includes renovations of existing spaces and adds a recital hall and proscenium theater and is the home of the newly created School of Performing Arts, combining the university's music, dance and theater programs.
The university has come a long way since its dependence on the dated Doner Auditorium in Morrill Hall, said David Reynolds, director of the SDSU School of Performing Arts.
"To go from Doner Auditorium, which to be perfectly honest, had outlived its worth in the 1940s, to a state-of-the-art facility like we've built, is a game changer for our region," he said. "It truly is."
The newly expanded facility will become an "anchor performing arts destination in Eastern South Dakota," said Jim Speirs, executive director of Arts South Dakota.
The nonprofit arts advocacy organization regularly calculates the economic value of the arts in the state. In southeast South Dakota, audiences spend an average of $30.35 per person in concert-related expenses and out-of-town attendees spend even more.
"The new PAC is bound to bring audiences from far and wide," Speirs said. "Investing in a new state-of-art performing arts center is a sound investment for the community of Brookings."
The Performing Arts Center's Larson Concert Hall has already built a reputation that's drawn top-shelf talent, Reynolds said.
"Now, with these other two venues, we're going to be able to invite even more varied guest artists to campus, shows, touring shows, those kinds of things," he said.
The reopening celebration features Ladysmith Black Mambazo, Postmodern Jukebox and a touring performance of Broadway's "Chicago, The Musical."
The new professional-caliber proscenium theater seats 850 and the recital hall seats 125. The Performing Arts Center's Larson Concert Hall seats 1,000. With no curtains or other features, it isn't designed for theater productions.
The proscenium theater adds a new, previously unavailable type of venue to the complex for productions from both students and touring groups, Reynolds said.
"Essentially, the Performing Arts Center puts Brookings 'on the map' in terms of top-rated touring ensembles," Speirs said.
The expanded Performing Arts Center is now home to technology, Reynolds said.
"We have an acoustical engineer who was part of this process, so every space where music can be made or studied or reproduced, or theatrical space, has been designed acoustically to make it as state of the art as any space that is being built in the United States right now," he said.
Another example of the facility's approach: The PAC now includes both new LED lighting, including some invented in the last year, as well as more traditional lighting — that typically found in local school districts.
"Public schools aren't going to have that kind of equipment, so we also have duplicates of the more traditional lighting, so students will have experience, depending on which direction they go," Reynolds said.
The school's programs were formerly spread across five buildings, including some not designed specifically for the arts. Putting the programs under the same roof will spark even more creativity, he said.
"So now we have all these creative people in the same building and they're talking to each other about how they can create new works with each other's support,'" he said.
Reynolds said there were some compromises made to keep the project on budget, but said a visitor working through the facility wouldn't notice what they were. His faculty and staff are pleased with the newly created spaces.
"This is a once-in-a-lifetime experience for me. A lot of people who are in my kind of work will go their entire career without being able to work on a project this significant," Reynolds said. "I'm so proud of all the staff and all the hard work and extra meetings and the compromise and the patience that went into seeing the project to fruition."
Information from: Argus Leader, http://www.argusleader.com
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