New Center to offer centralized, focused location for creativity
Millikin University officially broke ground on its new Center for Theatre and Dance during a ceremony held on May 18. Millikin faculty and staff have worked with architects to finalize floor plans and renderings, and construction will be fully underway in summer 2018 with a goal of completion by fall 2020.
The new Center will offer a centralized, focused location for creativity to be taught, fostered and displayed, and will also provide a new venue for Millikin performing arts to delight, inform and inspire audiences who will come from throughout the region to see Millikin's nationally recognized excellence.
The $29 million project will feature a 260-seat flexible theatre which includes an orchestra pit, balcony and tech gallery with a tension wire grid. The new building will also feature lighting and sound labs, a costume studio, a costume classroom, collaboration spaces, and offices and support facilities for current staff and room for growth. The architectural partner for the project is Decatur (Ill.) firm BLDD.
The new Center for Theatre and Dance is one of three building projects under Millikin University's $85 million "Transform MU" capital campaign (TMU). The new Center will be located at the former site of Richards Treat University Center.
"The School of Theatre and Dance has long been a shining star among the many strong programs at Millikin University, and now with the new Center for Theatre and Dance, we will keep our program at an extremely high level," said Millikin President Dr. Patrick White. "The new Center will allow room for growth, to expand what we can accomplish, not only for the actors and dancers, but also to provide growth in the rapidly developing areas of arts technology, lighting and sound and costume design."
Mary Black, director of the School of Theatre and Dance at Millikin added, "The faculty, staff and students of the School of Theatre and Dance are thrilled to see this building becoming a reality. We will have the opportunity to integrate new technology into our teaching and our production seasons, creating new and exciting theatre and dance experiences that can engage our entire community."
Millikin's new Center for Theatre and Dance will also incorporate four acting studios, two dance studios, two design classrooms and practice rooms as well as all new modern theatre equipment and LED lights.
"On behalf of the Board of Trustees we are indeed pleased that one of the last phases of the 'Transform MU' capital campaign is beginning to be realized," said Phil Blankenburg, chairman of the Millikin Board of Trustees. "The location from the original has changed and this iteration of the design has been dramatically enhanced both in size and scope. One of the unique things about Millikin is the emphasis on Performance Learning and this facility will indeed do that for our students. Now we can really deliver on that promise with its completion."
Blankenburg added, "I would be remiss if I didn't thank our many predecessor Boards of Trustees who approved the original concept and the subsequent changes. Additionally, without our alums, community members, faculty and staff, this facility would not be as wonderful. The Board of Trustees of Millikin are ever grateful to all of you."
On Oct. 11, 2017, Millikin University announced that more than half of the necessary funding was secured to complete the project thanks to visionary and generous alumni and community leaders, as well as the investment of University resources by Millikin's Board of Trustees. Funds are still being raised to complete the vision and finish "building on dreams."
"The future is bright for the School of Theatre and Dance. This new Center, with its studios, labs, classrooms, and state-of-the-art equipment and flexible theatre space, means that the theatre students of the present and the future will study their craft in a facility appropriate to the quality of their talent and training," said Laura Ledford, dean of the College of Fine Arts at Millikin. "The Center will also stand as the legacy of so many students, faculty and patrons of the School's past, who have achieved great success and have watched with pride as the program has grown in breadth, depth and stature over these many years. On behalf of the faculty, staff and students of the School of Theatre and Dance, we thank the past for dreaming the dream, the present - including our trustees and President Patrick White – for building on it, and the future that will see the dream come true through the next generation of theatre artists."
Millikin student Caitlyn Garrity, a junior theatre design and production major from Decatur noted, "This building is going to mean so much to future incoming classes – we're ready, it's been in the works and talked about for so long. This will be a space for us, this is a center for us. We're going to be producing some incredible work for years to come."
Millikin Theatre and Dance produces numerous performances in venues on and off-campus, including musicals, plays, operas, children's theatre and dance concerts, as well as productions through its student-run theatre company, Pipe Dreams Studio Theatre.
Millikin's School of Theatre and Dance is a nationally recognized program, offering conservatory-style training rooted in a liberal arts education. The School of Theatre and Dance's approach to education offers students valuable insight and hands-on experiences that will prepare them for professional success. Millikin's respected theatre alumni are routinely hired for productions in television, film and live theatre, including top Broadway shows and major regional theatres throughout the country.