Bolstered by a $25 million donation, Oregon State University officials on Wednesday announced plans for a performing arts and education complex on the south side of campus.
The project, announced at the Portland Art Museum, involves expanding and enhancing the LaSells Stewart Center, 875 SW 26th St. in Corvallis. The new facility will house OSU's music and theater programs and other initiatives as well, said Larry Rodgers, dean of OSU's College of Liberal Arts.
The $25 million gift comes from an anonymous donor in the Portland area. The total project is estimated to cost $60 million. OSU officials said they would launch a campaign to raise an additional $5 million and plan to approach a future Legislature for approval of $30 million in state bonds.
The current timeline calls for the project to be completed in 2022, Rodgers said in an interview.
"This is a watershed investment in our university," said OSU President Ed Ray in a press release. "The arts drive the culture of creativity, innovation and diversity that is essential to a thriving research environment. I believe with all my heart that a relationship with the arts is integral to the human experience."
In an interview, Rodgers said that the "big missing piece" at Oregon State "is really a building for the arts."
Although much work remains to be done in terms of designing the complex, it is expected to feature performance spaces including a new concert hall and a revitalized auditorium as well as a smaller black box theater that could be configured in different ways for performance and teaching.
The facility also is expected to include classrooms, practice rooms and spaces for choir, symphony and band rehearsals, shop space, faculty offices and seminar rooms.
Rodgers said he hopes the new facility offers opportunities to explore and research ways in which the arts can interact with science, the humanities and technology.
A primary idea driving the project, Rodgers said, is that the new center would be much more than a spot for community members to gather for cultural events. "This has to be for the students," he said. "If the community benefits from that, then it's a win-win for everyone."
"This is for all of us," Ray said, the campus community and the community at large. "That's what a university should be doing, elevating all of us."
And Ray, in a brief telephone interview after the Portland event, talked about another reason why the arts were important to him personally: Growing up in New York City, he had little exposure to the arts until he attended college, the first member of his family to do so.
In college, he said, he took classes on art and music appreciation, and "I was totally transported. ... It was like my whole universe just got bigger."
About 26 percent of OSU's students are the first members of their families to attend college; Ray wants those students to be able to have an arts experience similar to what he experienced.
"The arts are the closest thing we have for one soul to talk to another without interruption and without needing words," he said.
Rodgers said a committee headed by Steven Zielke, OSU's director of choral studies, will begin to tackle design and preparation details.
Rodgers said OSU officials continue to have conversations about placing a stand-alone art museum in the vicinity of the performing arts center.
The LaSells Stewart Center hosts more than 1,660 performances and conferences each year. Rodgers said the details of how to reschedule those events during construction have yet to be determined.