Westminster College officially broke ground on the expansion project of the Jewett Center for Performing Arts. The new building, Florence J. Gillmor Hall, will be a 26,000 square foot expansion, adding facilities for performing arts students to use.
“Gilmor Hall will elevate our facilities to match the talent of our students and the impact of their performances,” said President Beth Dobkin during the groundbreaking ceremony.
The three-story expansion of the Gilmor Hall will include a 100-seat recital hall with new dance and performance studios. It will also accommodate rehearsal rooms.
“A grand lobby will increase our ability for receptions and art shows, and a new construction shop and costume studio will support performing arts productions,” Dobkin said.
The $14 million project is being fully funded by donations and doesn’t have any effect on the tuition increase, according to Dobkin.
Sophomore dance major Megan Fotheringham said she has to travel off campus to outside studios for dance classes like other dance majors.
“I’m thrilled the expansion includes two dance studios where we can rehearse and perform,” Fotheringham said. “This is such a great campus and now future dance students will see they have opportunities here too.”
The last expansion of the performing arts facility was in 2004. Dobkin said there’s been significant growth in the program, which has prompted a need to expand.
“Since , we have added a dance program, doubled our music enrolment to 60 students, surpassed our theater department enrollment capacity and added talented faculty in all of these areas,” Dobkin said. “This fully-funded expansion is being accomplished through private donations including a 1.3 million dollar endowment to ensure that we can operate the facility to its capacity for years to come.”
The $14 million project is expected to take roughly 13 months to complete, opening Florence J. Gillmor Hall for classes, rehearsals and performances by Fall semester 2021.
Former President of Westminster College Steve Morgan presented the idea for the expansion three years ago, and began asking for donations. Dobkin inherited the project when she was inaugurated, when there was still not enough funding.
“We’ve seen the college’s performing arts programs flourish over the past few years,” Dobkin said. “Our quality, visibility in the arts community, and the skills, talents and potential of our students are all exemplary.”
The Westminster program is on its way to becoming known as one of the finest performing arts programs in the region, according to Dobkin.
“We are that place where the liberal arts come alive, where students are exposed to ideas and people to challenge them, where we encourage the freedom to think, the wisdom to know and the amplitude to act,” Dobkin said.
During the ceremony, both Dobkin and Morgan — along with seven other community members — drove gold spray-painted shovels into a flower bed of dirt to break the ground where Gillmor Hall will begin construction in the summer.
“The arts allow us to escape, to put our phones away, breathe and get lost in the music for an amazing two hours,” said Maggie Regier, ASW president. “Taking time to recenter, relax, so we can live longer and healthier lives.”
Performing arts students say they are excited for the opportunities coming with the expansion, especially with the new performance halls.
Justin Ibarra, a vocal performance major, is a tenor with the Westminster Chamber Singers and the Utah Opera Chorus. Ibarra has performed in several Westminster productions and said he’s looking forward to what students can do in the new facility.
“It will give artists a place to hone their craft and lead to more collaboration among the programs, opening new doorways and new art forms,” Ibarra said. “I’m excited about the art we’re going to be able to create.”