The Joplin Globe, Joplin, MO

Local News

February 1, 2013

New PSU Center for Arts 35 years in the making

PITTSBURG, Kan. — At one time, Pittsburg State University had a performance space large enough and grand enough to attract the likes of Duke Ellington, Vincent Price, John Denver, Steve Martin, the St. Louis Symphony and Ralph Nader.

Built in 1919, Carney Hall was the cultural and social hub of the both the university and the community, longtime residents say. But in 1978, deterioration and severe settling forced the university to condemn the building.

The 3,000-seat auditorium was razed in 1980 to make way for Heckert-Wells Hall, the sciences building, which opened in 1984.

“At the same time they were tearing down Carney, we were already talking about what was going to replace it,” said PSU Registrar Debbie Greve.

What will replace it will be a $30 million Center for the Arts, for which a ceremonial groundbreaking was held Friday morning in John Lance Arena, just north of the construction site on the northeast corner of Homer and Ford streets.

The center will feature a 1,100-seat main performance hall with adjustable acoustical elements, a stage, an orchestra pit and technical spaces. It will include 250 seats in a theater with a flexible layout, a 2,000-square-foot art gallery and work space for artists; and a 3,000-square-foot, multiuse rehearsal space for large musical groups.

“It’s been a long time coming,” Greve said.

So long, in fact, that Orville Brill, former dean of the College of Arts and Sciences, admitted there was a moment where he wasn’t sure if the campus would ever have another large venue for concerts and lectures.

“As often happens, though, Gorillas find a way,” noted Kathleen Flannery, executive director of University Development, during the ceremony.

The ceremony paid tribute to the legions of those who worked to make the center a reality, including some 500 donors, and featured an indoor “dirt turning” with soil in a cart on wheels. It was attended by city officials, members of the Kansas Board of Regents, university supporters from the community, and students, faculty and staff.

Student Government Association President Lara Ismert described it as “one of the most historic days in PSU history.” She noted that the student body pledged nearly a quarter of the construction costs — $7 million — although many of the students won’t be here when the center opens.

“It’s because we believe in this university and we want to see it thrive for the next generation of Gorillas,” she said. “In order for this to happen, our university must have a dedicated facility where students can learn about and experience art in all of its forms.”

She anticipates national Broadway touring companies, chart-topping artists and politically challenging activists one day performing there.

PSU President Steve Scott commended an as-yet anonymous donor, whose gift of $10 million ignited other donors and “made us believe we could get it done.”

Funding also came from the Walton Family Charitable Support Foundation, which last March made a $5 million donation in honor of Scott’s brother, H. Lee Scott, the former CEO and president of Wal-Mart Stores Inc.

Steve Scott also paid tribute to faculty, department chairs and deans of the College of Arts and Sciences who “helped keep the dream alive.”

Kansas Board of Regents Chairman Tim Emert said he believes the relationship between the community and PSU is unique among all other Regents institutions, and said the center “makes a strong statement that the arts are alive and thriving” in Southeast Kansas.

Emert, who also serves as president of the William Inge Festival Foundation in Independence, Kan., which celebrates the internationally noted playwright, said the arts enhance all areas of education.

“Whether it be the power of an orchestra, the joy of a comedic performance or the simple beauty of a sculpture, the arts serve to feed our hearts and stimulate our minds,” he said. “Today’s groundbreaking is a strong statement that the arts are alive and thriving in this beautiful corner of Kansas.”

Kevin Hamilton, who was among the numerous private donors recognized during the ceremony, said afterward he wished his father, Pete Hamilton, longtime chairman of the Department of Communications and known as being the “voice of the Gorillas” at athletic events, were alive to see it.

An emotional Brill, who retired in 2007, said after the ceremony that he regretted once making a statement about doubting such a center would ever become reality.

“I immediately realized that it showed a lack of appreciation for the hard work and conscientious efforts being made by administrators and other colleagues who were involved in identifying support and resources for the center,” he said. “That it is finally happening after all this time demonstrates what a long, involved and difficult task this has been. What a blessing it will be for our students and citizens for decades to come.”

Role of arts

The arts played a significant role in the ceremony, with the PSU Trumpet Ensemble, under the direction of Todd Hastings, performing “Kansas” and “Voluntary,” and the PSU Choir, under the direction of Susan Marchant, performing “Let the River Run.”

 

1
Text Only
Local News
  • Ballot issues dominate GOP event

    A maze of campaign yard signs lined the sidewalk at Big Spring Park, leading up to a line of local candidates for public office with rolled-up sleeves shaking hands with potential voters.

    July 24, 2014

  • Mike Pound: It’s time for some football

    The arrests, the announced suspensions and the contract disputes can mean only one thing: Somebody is ready for some football.

    July 24, 2014

  • Landfill opponents seek answers

    The Baxter Springs High School auditorium was filled with hundreds of Cherokee County residents Thursday night as Galena city officials answered questions and listened to comments regarding a proposed landfill at Riverton.

    July 24, 2014

  • Hanaway says leadership missing under Gov. Nixon

    When Republican gubernatorial hopeful Catherine Hanaway walked into the banquet room at Granny Shaffer’s Restaurant this week, she was greeted by some of Joplin’s more prominent business leaders.

    July 24, 2014

  • Neosho athletes bring home silver

    For 19-year-old Dominque Dechant, it was the trip of a lifetime. She and three other athletes from Neosho traveled last month to Newark, New Jersey, as part of the Missouri Special Olympics girls basketball team.

    July 24, 2014

  • r072414msw.jpg VIDEO: Carterville company expands to third generation

    What began as Ray “Mac” McCoy’s side job in his home 55 years ago has grown not only in square footage and reach, but in generations. This summer, a third generation took over the reins of MSW — Mac’s Specialty Woodwork — that now exceeds 90,000 square feet and creates custom furniture for chain restaurants coast to coast.

    July 24, 2014 2 Photos

  • Shrine Bowl band, cheerleaders, players arrive in Pittsburg this week

    Band members were the first Kansas Shrine Bowl participants to arrive at Pittsburg State University this week.

    July 24, 2014

  • Galena council rescinds landfill decisions

    The Galena City Council voted Wednesday to rescind decisions it made two weeks ago regarding a proposed landfill at Riverton.

    July 23, 2014

  • Miami council waives fees for barbecue event

    The Miami City Council voted Tuesday to waive $3,750 in usage fees for Miami Elks Lodge No. 1320 for an upcoming barbecue championship at the Miami Fairgrounds.

    July 23, 2014

  • Carthage prepares for Marian Days

    The 37th annual Marian Days celebration will start in two weeks, and planning is well under way for the event that will bring tens of thousands of Catholics of Vietnamese descent to Carthage.

    July 23, 2014

Must Read
Sports
Photos


Facebook
Poll

Amendment 8 in Missouri proposes a special lottery ticket to help fund state veterans homes. How will you vote?

For it.
Against it.
     View Results
Opinion
Twitter Updates
Follow us on twitter