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Florence J. Gillmor Hall to break ground Spring semester

Florence J. Gillmor Hall to break ground Spring semester
A digital rendering shows what the Florence J. Gillmor Hall will look like when construction is finished. The expansion of the Jewett Performing Arts Center is meant to better accommodate the fast-growing performing arts program at Westminster College and be a community arts center for Sugar House. (Photo Courtesy: VCBO Architecture)

In 2017, Westminster College announced it would be expanding the Jewett Center for the Performing Arts with the Florence J. Gillmor Hall to better accommodate the number of students and programs that use the building.

The project is meant to give better facilities to the performing arts and hopefully be a draw for future students, according to music professor and project committee member Chris Quinn.

“Theater is at complete capacity already,” Quinn said. “Music, we’ve been doing very, very well with our recruitment, and the dance program is growing without a faculty member full-time, and without a space to dance.” 

Gillmor Hall will give more space to all of these programs.

The top floor will mainly function as a recital hall for the music program, the ground floor will have a dance studio for the dance program who currently has to practice off-campus, and the bottom floor will be a practice space for the theater program as well as a green room, changing room and student lounge.

The hall will also expand in the back of Jewett where there will be a set construction shop and a costume studio, among other things.

After several funding delays, the building is planned to break ground in the Spring semester of 2020, according to Westminster’s Director of Foundation Relations and project committee member Jeff Driggs.

The project will cost a total of $14.5 million, according to Driggs.

While the new hall will provide more adequate space for the performing arts, some students have expressed concern that the money going toward the expansion could be used for scholarships instead, according to President Beth Dobkin.

“From students that I talk to, there’s a lot of confusion about, ‘Why wouldn’t you want a donor give to scholarships instead of giving to that?’” Dobkin said. “Well, we still prioritize scholarships and we still raise a lot of money for it as much as we can but some donors want to build things instead.”

Because the funding for the building is coming from a donor who requested the money go toward the building, the funds cannot go anywhere else.

Dobkin also said there will be no financial effect on students because the project is entirely funded by donations.

“About half of this is going to be funded by one foundation and the rest are — it’s all private donations,” Dobkin said. “As well as an endowment to support the operations. So there should be no impact on students. And that’s the way we try to do it right? Because we don’t want to be raising tuition for something like that when we don’t need to.”

The new hall will also lead to increased enrollment which will, in turn, bring more funds for the college, according to Quinn.

“In the last five years, it’s been the performing arts that have been leading the college in enrollment,” Quinn said. “Now that should say something to those students or faculty who question supporting this project.”

Many of the donors to the Florence J. Gillmor Hall have also donated scholarships, according to Driggs.

“The Gillmor Foundation is giving at least $100,000 a year in scholarships,” Driggs said. “And we’ve got another donor to the building, they’re giving $1.5 million to the building. Part of the request to them was give us $2 million and half a million of that would be for scholarships.”

Some performing arts students also agree the hall will be beneficial to the college, but also think it’s a bit of a disruption.

“I wish that it had come sooner,” said Cora Fossen, a theater studies major. “I’m glad that it’s eventually happening. The timing is sort of a disruption because I have friends that work in our scene shop and we’re going to have to completely move to a space in [Salt Lake Community College] to build stuff. […] It’s becoming more of an inconvenience than an exciting thing now.  […] I’m glad it’s still happening though.”

Overall, the Gillmor hall will be a great thing for the college, Driggs said.

“Bottom line is the building will increase enrollment for the college,” Driggs said. “It brings in more funds for the college. It’s going to help the college be stronger.”

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Marina McTee
Marina McTee is a senior communication major at Westminster College. She is specializing in journalism and content creation. She hopes to combine her passion for journalism with her passion for all things media and work for a media outlet such as SLUG Mag or Vice someday. She is dedicated to reporting news and creating media specialized for the internet world so it is accessible to all.

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