Fisher Auditorium and Waller Hall, on the Indiana University of Pennsylvania campus, have long been a central resource for the Indiana community and surrounding region. Since opening in 1939, Fisher Auditorium has served as IUP’s “town hall.”
Some of the world’s most accomplished performing artists, entertainers, and personalities have appeared on the Fisher stage. For almost seventy years, the auditorium has hosted a wide variety of university and community concerts and other events such as Swing Out, academic convocations, military bands, Mellowmen and other jazz concerts, community meetings and performances, and more.
Some of the luminaries who have graced its stage include Bob Dylan, Dave Brubeck, Judy Collins, Sandra Day O’Connor, B.B. King, Peter Nero, Run DMC, Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra, Willie Nelson, Moscow Philharmonic, Dave Matthews, F.W. de Klerk, Cleo Laine, George Carlin, William F. Buckley, The Beach Boys, Ray Charles, Rosemary Clooney, Doc Severinsen, Bob Dole, Trisha Yearwood, London City Opera, Billy Joel, Tom Jones, Chita Rivera, and hundreds of others.
Originally built in the 1920s as a gymnasium, Waller Hall was completely renovated in 1989, providing state-of-the-art performance and teaching facilities for the Department of Theater and Dance. The department—through Theater-by-the-Grove, IUP Dance Theater, and the Acorn Project and in collaboration with Music Theater—has provided more than twenty productions annually, attracting more than twelve thousand people each year.
The new IUP Performing Arts Center joins these two entities via a 20,000-square-foot addition and grand atrium lobby. The first meeting with the architects—IKM, Inc., of Pittsburgh—took place in January 2004, and construction commenced in January 2006. Construction is progressing, with expectation for completion sometime before the middle of August 2008, according to the director of public events for the College of Fine Arts, Hank Knerr.
In discussing the evolution of this project, Knerr explained, “Even when Fisher Auditorium was first built in the 1930s, items like additional lobby space, dressing rooms, and other necessities were eliminated, most probably due to budget concerns of that time. The dream to restore these amenities has been a priority for over a decade.
“With the current construction, we are finally bringing Fisher Auditorium to a level of audience and production space that fits the incredible variety of activities the auditorium, coupled with Waller Hall, presents.”
The doors will officially open with a dedication celebration set for September 18. The event, starting at 7:00 p.m., will include a ribbon-cutting ceremony followed immediately by a concert featuring various IUP student and faculty performers and ensembles. The evening will also include guided tours and art exhibits. Open to the public, the event will include a postconcert reception held throughout the various spaces in the center. It will be free, and the general public is invited.
To a greater extent than ever before, the center will provide up-to-date amenities for its venues, help attract and retain students, facilitate an appreciation for a global perspective throughout the town and gown community, act as a renewed resource for local economic development, and serve as the primary location for cultural life in the immediate southwestern Pennsylvania region. As a unified entity that combines the performances and activities in Fisher Auditorium and Waller Hall under one umbrella, the center will host nearly a quarter of a million people annually, playing host to more than three hundred events throughout the year.
Some of the highlights of what the new Performing Arts Center and related enhancements to Waller Hall will realize include the following:
Understanding the project’s unique mission as a community and campus resource, IUP and the Pennsylvania State System of Higher Education are investing nearly $7.8 million toward construction of and basic equipment for the Performing Arts Center. Additional funds are needed to complete the equipment and programming needs essential to the ongoing operation of the center, with these funds being sought through a seat-naming campaign and other gift opportunities.
For more information on contributing to the center, including the current Take Your Seat campaign, other major gift opportunities, and plans for the center, please visit our campaign website.
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