Southern Utah University is on the fast track to becoming southern Utah’s regional arts hub, thanks to a $6 million gift from the Sorenson Legacy Foundation announced late Thursday.
The generous donation means the Cedar City university needs just$2 million more for a new $30 million arts center. The project will house arts education facilities, a new Shakespeare theater and production building for the Utah Shakespeare Festival, as well as a new location for the Southern Utah Museum of Art.
Michael T. Benson, president of SUU, said that once under way, the construction project will be the largest in the history of Iron County.
The new center will be named the Beverley Taylor Sorenson Center for the Arts, in honor of the Sorenson Foundation co-founder who has made arts and arts education her longtime cause.
"This was the capstone gift," Benson said. "This is a center that will be dedicated to every facet of arts education, which is her great passion. We thought the name a wholly fitting way to recognize her and her life’s work."
Ann Crocker, president of the Sorenson Legacy Foundation and daughter of Beverley Taylor Sorenson and the late James L. Sorenson, said the gift aligned both her mother’s commitment to arts education and the university’s mission of promoting the arts throughout Utah.
"We were so excited about this because our foundation has a long history of working with institutions that care about the arts," Crocker said. "Southern Utah University has an exemplary history and reputation in both arts education and performance."
The Sorenson Foundation gift follows several other donations for the new center and theater, including a $2 million appropriation approved by the Utah Legislature at the end of this year’s session. The Ralph and Betty Engelstad Family Foundation in nearby Las Vegas contributed $5 million for the Shakespeare theater last year. The George S. and Dolores Doré Eccles Foundation has committed $3 million toward the center, according to SUU.
Wife of the late biotechnology pioneer and entrepreneur, Sorenson has presided over a multitude of donations aimed at furthering the cause of arts and arts education in Utah, including a $3 million gift last year to Westminster College for a new position of endowed chair in arts education and new program for arts eduction.
R. Scott Phillips, executive director of the Utah Shakespeare Festival, said the goal is to make the new Shakespeare theater ready for occupancy in 2015 after an 18-month construction schedule. The opening will fall just one year short of the 400th anniversary of William Shakespeare’s death. Phillips said the festival hopes to inaugurate the new theater with a performance of "Henry V."
"We couldn’t be more pleased in the way this is all coming together," Phillips said.
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