Campus: CSU Northridge -- October 27, 2004

Council Members Back Valley Performing Arts Center at CSUN

1,600-Seat Project Will Expand Region's Arts and Cultural Opportunities

The entire San Fernando Valley delegation of the Los Angeles City Council endorsed a resolution introduced Friday by Councilman Greig Smith supporting the development of a planned 1,600-seat Valley Performing Arts Center project on the Cal State Northridge campus.

Smith, who represents the 12th District that includes Cal State Northridge, urged the full City Council to support the project and its goals "to educate and enrich the community, to enhance the cultural and economic growth of the Valley, and to better define the area as an attractive cultural destination."

The resolution was seconded by Council President Alex Padilla and supported by the Valley's other council members: Tony Cardenas, Wendy Greuel and Dennis Zine. Under council procedures, the resolution was referred to a council committee, which ultimately will bring it back to the full City Council for a vote in the next month or so.

"I am very pleased to support the Valley Performing Arts Center project at Cal State Northridge," Councilman Smith said. "The Valley is a region of almost 2 million people and has nearly 40 percent of the city's population. But local residents now have to drive to other areas to enjoy major performing arts productions. The Valley deserves its own performing arts center."

Cal State Northridge President Jolene Koester praised the council resolution and thanked Councilman Smith and the other Valley council members for their support. "Cal State Northridge is the place where this kind of wonderful, exciting project can happen," the president said. "With the community's support, we can do this."

Koester added that the university is committed to working and collaborating with other area arts organizations in pursuit of the project, and ultimately, in its operation and management. "The center would be located at Cal State Northridge because we are the Valley's best chance to achieve this project. But we really see this as a united effort of the entire community."

Although the Valley currently has a number of smaller performing arts venues, including several at Cal State Northridge, none are large enough to support large-scale performances such a Broadway-style show or a symphony orchestra. Thus, the proposed 1,600-seat hall would be the largest facility of its kind in the Valley and open the region to those kinds of performances.

The university has been planning the project for several years, and has identified a site near the main entrance to the campus at the northwest corner of Nordhoff Street and Lindley Avenue. About half of the project's cost is expected to be covered by state funds, while the other half would come from private donations. President Koester said the project is CSUN's top building priority.

As envisioned by the university, the Valley Performing Arts Center project would be a cultural hub for the region and serve as an attractive meeting place for large community events, both for the Valley and the surrounding North Los Angeles County and eastern Ventura County areas. The center as planned would host professional, community and university performances.

Already each year, through its prestigious College of Arts, Media, and Communication, Cal State Northridge hosts several hundred performances of music, theater, dance and other arts--most at modest prices and all open to the public. In addition to student shows, CSUN contracts with professional artists to perform and rents its current, smaller 500-seat venue to community groups.

The university is readying a fundraising campaign in support of the Valley Performing Arts Center project, and is forming a campaign committee co-chaired by some of the most prominent business and community leaders in the region. The goal will be to raise about $50 million to permit the project to be completed by the end of the decade.

William Toutant, dean of CSUN's College of Arts, Media, and Communication, said the future center will attract world-class performers who will provide special classes for the university's students, pre-performance lectures for the community, and enable partnerships to enhance the arts education available to students in local public schools.

Toutant said the future center also will help the university to enhance its academic programs in the arts. The dean said he currently is exploring a new arts and facilities management program in which students could learn about the management side of the arts, as well as an entertainment engineering program melding the technical and creative sides of the arts.

As planned, the future center also would have other spaces beyond the 1,600-seat hall, including a 250-seat "black box" theater, rehearsal spaces, a lecture hall, laboratories specializing in sound and lighting, and become the new home for campus radio station KCSN 88.5 FM. The state will financially support the project because it will be part of the university's academic programs.

Campus officials said the available university land for the project, the state's expected financial support and the ongoing operational support the center would receive from the university make it a much more viable project than any commercial alternative, which would have to be self-supporting and thus charge corresponding rental rates.

"This is a real opportunity to improve the quality of the cultural life for the entire community," President Koester said. "This project is deserving of support from the city and the entire community."

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