Colorado Commission on Higher Education Approves Performing and Visual Arts Center to Serve Csu and the Community

The Colorado Commission on Higher Education has cleared the way for the renovation and addition to old Fort Collins High School for a new University Center for the Arts to enhance educational opportunities for students and to improve community outreach in the arts at Colorado State University.

In addition to bringing cultural enrichment and community-university collaborations, the $28 million University Center for the Arts will house – for the first time in university history – Colorado State’s Department of Music, Theatre and Dance under one roof. Other university departments also will be moved to the facility.

"This signals the beginning of a new era for the performing arts at Colorado State University," said Albert C. Yates, president of Colorado State and chancellor of the CSU System. "We’re grateful for the CCHE’s support on this project and we plan to move forward immediately with efforts to transform this historic facility into a significant cultural resource for our entire community."

"Approval of this project adds a new dimension to the arts initiatives at CSU," said Jeanne Adkins, director of policy and planning at CCHE. "We were pleased to include this project in a pilot program for capital projects. This planning process will lead to better ways of using the state’s existing higher education facilities. Chancellor Al Yates and CSU officials, working with Rep. Steve Tool, chairman of the Joint Budget Committee, forwarded a plan that both the institution and the state will point to as a model of institution-state cooperation."

The CCHE-approved project now will go to the state Legislature’s Capital Development Committee and the Joint Budget Committee for final approval, said Edward Bowditch, vice chancellor for administrative affairs for the CSU System. Both committees will hear the request in September. Upon approval from the JBC, the university will have access to $6.4 million in Phase One funds appropriated in the last legislative session. These funds will be used for project design and initial renovation to move forward with the center. University teams are working to secure private funding in addition to public support.

"The center is a phased project, with initial funding of $6.4 million already secured from the Colorado General Assembly," said Gerry Bomotti, vice president for administrative services at Colorado State. "Pending final approval of Phase One funding, the Colorado General Assembly will provide a total of about $18.6 million in capital construction funds for the University Center for the Arts."

The university has committed to raise $5 million in private funds for the center and at least $2 million for a program and scholarship endowment. When completed, the entire project is expected to exceed $30 million.

The center will be housed in the historic old Fort Collins High School on Remington Street, a local landmark built in 1923 and well known for its classic Greek architecture, dignified white columns and bell tower.

The University Center for the Arts will:

  • Enhance the learning environment and establish a center for the arts in the heart of Fort Collins by providing a 500-seat concert hall, a 300-seat recital hall, a 300-seat theatre, a black-box theatre, an art gallery, exhibition space for the university’s permanent art collections, a historic costume and textile gallery, dance studios, recital and rehearsal chambers, and classrooms to enable students and members of our community to learn about and benefit from the arts. In addition, the center will provide clinic space for the Music Therapy program and the Center for Biomedical Research in Music.
  • Improve opportunities for integrated and interdisciplinary learning by housing the academic units of Music, Theatre, and Dance in the same home for the first time in university history.
  • Provide a visual arts gallery and museum to accommodate modest-sized traveling exhibitions and storage and exhibition space for at least a portion of the university’s permanent collection (about 1,700 individual pieces).
  • Strengthen ties with the greater community by providing an environment for cooperative programming and alliances with community performance groups and, especially, Front Range Community College local and statewide K-12 districts.

Music, theatre and dance programs now are housed in facilities not originally intended for their use. At this time, the Music Department is located in the former library, now the Music Building on the west side of the Oval; the Dance Department is located in a former munitions building, now the General Services Building; and the Theatre Department is in the original student center, now Johnson Hall. Last year, more than 7,000 students participated in classes, performances, bands, and choirs within the Department of Music, Theatre, and Dance.

Music instruction at Colorado State began in 1883, and in 1904, the State Board of Agriculture created the Department of Music. Dance instruction historically was offered within the Department of Physical Education. Theater began as a drama club ca. 1918, and classes were offered within the English Department. In 1983, the Department of Music, Theatre, and Dance was created to merge these three programs and provide a focus for education in the performing arts.

Colorado State purchased the former high school building at 1400 Remington St. in September 1997 for $4.1 million through funds appropriated by the Colorado General Assembly. The site includes about 14 acres of land and two main structures. The building received a local historic landmark designation from the City of Fort Collins Landmark Preservation Commission in 1994.

In addition, the park immediately west of the site was acquired through the Colorado State University Research Foundation in a trade with the city of Fort Collins as part of a cooperative community horticulture center. The park will serve as an annual flower garden. An underpass connecting the main campus and the facility that runs under College Avenue is nearing completion and will assure safe and easy access to the site. Parking facilities have been enhanced both west and north of the site to create additional parking for performances and to provide access via the underpass to the flower garden and to the University Center for the Arts.

The building now is being used by Colorado State’s Center for Lifelong Learning, and space is rented to the city of Fort Collins, Front Range Community College and Poudre School District. The university’s Printing Services moved to the building this summer.