Tuesday, May 11th, 2021
Valdosta State University will soon be home to a brand new, state-of-the-art $18.7 million Performing Arts Center.
The Georgia General Assembly, during the final hours of the 2021 Legislative Session, approved a $27.2 billion state budget that includes $12.4 million in bond funds for the Performing Arts Center project. State leaders previously secured $1.3 million in design funding for the project last year. The remaining $5 million comes from private donations raised by VSU Foundation Inc.
Gov. Brian Kemp signed the budget today (Monday, May 10).
“This is a great day for our university, our community, and our region,” shared Dr. Richard A. Carvajal, president of VSU. “The Performing Arts Center project reflects VSU’s unwavering commitment to leading development in and serving as a resource for the arts in South Georgia and is sure to have a positive impact on community and economic development efforts across our region. We know this project will also allow Peach State Summer Theatre to fully live up to its role as Georgia’s Official Musical Theatre and to make Valdosta a tourism destination each year.”
The proposed Performing Arts Center will be located adjacent to VSU’s Rea and Lillian Steele North Campus, in the area formerly known as Ashley Cinemas near the intersection of Ashley Street and Northside Drive. It will feature more than 36,000 square feet of performance, rehearsal, instructional, and office space for the VSU Theatre area, as well as ample surface parking and enhanced visibility and accessibility to residents and visitors in the greater Valdosta community.
“We believe public investment in a facility such as this on Ashley Street can lead to related private investment to help further develop the area,” added Carvajal.
“We are very appreciative of University System of Georgia Chancellor Steve Wrigley and the members of the Board of Regents for their support of this project,” Carvajal said. “We also thank Gov. Kemp for including this project in his budget recommendation, and we are very grateful to Lt. Gov. Geoff Duncan, House Speaker David Ralston, House Appropriations Committee Chairman Terry England, Senate Appropriations Committee Chairman Blake Tillery, and the Appropriations Committee members of both houses.
“I want to say a special word of thanks to our dedicated city and county leaders and our Lowndes County legislative delegation, including former Senator Ellis Black, Senator Russ Goodman, Representative John Corbett, Representative James Burchett, Representative John LaHood, and Representative Dexter Sharper, for supporting this project and being champions for Valdosta State from the very beginning.”
Alan Sanderson, associate director of facilities planning at VSU, said that the project is currently in the design phase. He had a chance to review early concept diagrams earlier this week and anticipates construction documents will be complete by May 2022.
Assuming no delays, the new Performing Arts Center could open its doors as early as Fall 2023, he said.
Carvajal said that a new Performing Arts Center would greatly enhance VSU’s ability to support regional tourism efforts, both through the regular season theatre productions and Peach State Summer Theatre, which has been producing professional theatre since 1990 and was designated by the Georgia Legislature as the Official Musical Theatre of the State of Georgia. He said it would also contribute to efforts to protect and nurture the university’s commitment to creative excellence.
“As the flagship institution of higher education in South Georgia, we are committed to making this area the very best place to live, learn, work, and play now and for generations to come,” said Carvajal. “This new Performing Arts Center will definitely help us live up to that commitment.”
A. Blake Pearce, dean of the College of the Arts at VSU, said that a new Performing Arts Center would also make the university more competitive in recruiting, retaining, and graduating highly talented students.
The VSU Theatre area is currently located on the university’s Main Campus in the Fine Arts Building, which was constructed in 1969.
The instructional programs have outgrown the space both physically and technologically. Scheduling is increasingly difficult with opera, symphony, theatre, and dance performances, as well as student and guest music recitals and Peach State Summer Theatre all requiring the venues, which cannot be used simultaneously due to sound control issues. Adequate shop space is needed to allow students to design and build sets safely, and a modern theater configuration will allow students to develop a full set of professional competencies.
The quality and suitability of space for the VSU College of the Arts had been identified as the most significant deficiency in the 2014 facilities master plan. The new Performing Arts Center — together with the recent renovation of Powell Hall for use by the Department of Music — will go a long way to addressing that need.
“The university recognizes the value the performing arts brings to the region,” Pearce said. “Newly realized spaces for theatre will address accreditation requirements for the program, allowing us to deliver high quality instruction and to expand and improve the experience for our audiences. We are very excited about the potential these new performance venues can bring to VSU.”
The VSU Theatre area, a unit of the university’s Department of Communication Arts, is committed to fostering excellence within its theatre performance, theatre production, theatre management, and musical theatre programs while also contributing to the lifelong learning and cultural development of the citizens of South Georgia, North Florida, and beyond.