The University of North Carolina School of the Arts is slated to receive $10.9 million in repair and renovation funding as part of the proposed Connect NC Bond for repurposing the university’s old library ($8 million), and repairs to and renovation of parts of Performance Place, the university’s primary on-campus performance venue ($2.9 million).
These projects are part of a set of Targeted Capital Renewal Projects recommended by the UNC Board of Governors. Five capital projects at three institutions were identified by the Board, and the gross allocation amounts for each institution reflect the student enrollment levels proportionally. The projects focus on renovations of existing structures..
While uses for the old library are still under review, improvements to Performance Place would consist of a complete theatrical lighting replacement, including upgrading to the newest generation of dimming systems, in two of the building’s four theaters. Fixed seating and carpet would also be replaced in the building’s largest theater, while most door hardware throughout the facility will be replaced due to extreme wear. The metal roof at the main lobby and windows also would be replaced. In addition to the theatrical lighting replacement, emergency egress and exterior lighting would be replaced. Several HVAC system components, including the boiler, would be replaced or repaired as part of this project.
Renovations to Performance Place could begin as soon as funds are available. The repurposing of the old library could begin when the budget is certified. Designer selection would take about three months and design, about eight to 10 months. Construction could start as early as January 2017, with a 14 to18-month construction period.
Why are these particular projects important to the UNCSA?
“The repurposing of the old library space is a top priority because the now-vacant building at the heart of campus needs deferred maintenance and repairs. In addition, the school has grown slowly but steadily over recent years (1,136 in 2005 to 1,240 in 2015). Because of the nature of our instruction, which is mentor-mentee, UNCSA is not an institution slated for enrollment growth. However, we have added graduate programs in Film and Design & Production, and we have grown our offerings to the community and in summer session. This growth has generated needs for specialized arts spaces to support the new programs and faculty offices, as well as additional practice and rehearsal spaces. In addition, general office space is at a premium. For example, a digital team has been added to maintain and grow the school’s new website, yet it has no place to call its own. The Advancement Division is adding new positions to help boost the school’s private fundraising, but will soon grow out of its present house.
The School of the Arts has grown in fits and starts, utilizing existing buildings and adding new ones over the past 50 years. We need to make the best use of the space available in order to achieve the mission and conduct the business of the university. Lack of space is a significant limiting factor in the university’s ability to offer optimal learning environments for our unique performing arts based instruction. It’s a constant struggle to find space for operations of the university as well as meetings.
Repurposing of the old library’s 29,633 square feet, located in the center of campus, will make a tremendous difference to our students, faculty and staff. For example, the Administration Building lost its large conference room to accommodate cubicles. And recently, I had to participate in a video conference from a storage room in HR. We have faculty members sharing offices and using walk-in closets as offices. The old library is available to resolve/address many of these programmatic and office needs, but not all.
And the Performance Place upgrades will help reduce our deferred maintenance backlog, which negatively impacts programs and operations on campus. It will also improve our performance spaces and experiences, which will attract additional arts patrons and benefit our community, our students and faculty.”
How do these selected projects help meet your stated educational goals?
“Our steady growth has generated needs for specialized arts spaces to support new programs and faculty offices, as well as additional practice and rehearsal spaces. Limited practice and rehearsal spaces complicate scheduling and limit learning outcomes. It’s about real compromises: The chamber trio has the room from 6 to 8, but the quartet needs it from 7:30 to 9.
One of the negative impacts of deferred maintenance is on our aging performance facilities. These performance spaces are not “nice to have”; in our curriculum, they are our classrooms and laboratories. Student academic evaluations are based largely on performances and productions that are staged in these facilities. We offer a range of different types of performance spaces, so our actors and singers and designers and technicians and instrumentalists will have the experience in the environments they will encounter as professionals. But the systems in those environments must meet standards of current industry technology in order for faculty to prepare their students for the real world. In both Performance Place theatres, the present aged theatrical lighting and dimming systems affect student projects; it’s like doctors-in-training using the first microscopes. The repairs and renovations to parts of Performance Place will address these critical instructional issues. In addition, if not addressed, HVAC or roofing problems could turn into failures that could result in facility downtime, adversely impacting the academic mission of the university, or even result in emergency repairs that could result in even more expensive costs.
Finally, our students’ training culminates on the stage and necessitates audiences at their performances. How the audiences react impacts their learning outcomes. They learn how their delivery of that punch line succeeded or failed. They learn how their lighting design accentuated or distracted from the play’s flow. We need our performance facilities to be hospitable and comfortable for our guests.”
What impact will completion of the projects have beyond the campus?
“At 375 seats, Performance Place is the university’s largest on-campus performance venue. It is second only in size to our UNCSA Stevens Center in downtown Winston-Salem. Performance Place hosts hundreds of performances annually that are open to the public – from plays to musicals to jazz concerts performed by UNCSA students – that reach nearly 50,000 people annually. In addition, Performance Place also hosts performances from the National Black Theatre Festival and other arts organizations. The economic impact of having Performance Place as one of the city’s premier performance venues, and the role of the facility in the cultural life of Winston-Salem, cannot be underestimated.”
The repurposing of the library, of course, will allow us to serve our students and community members better, by providing specialized arts spaces to support new programs, additional practice and rehearsal spaces, and general office space.
What other benefits of the bond passage would you like to discuss?
“While I’m thrilled that more than half of the bond package will benefit higher education, I also see the bonds making a substantial impact on the state’s infrastructure, ranging from water and sewer projects to public safety to state parks. Also, it’s been 15 years since the state’s last bond referendum, while the state’s population has continued to grow. All of us in higher education realize that we are preparing our students to compete in a global economy, so it’s imperative that North Carolina carry on its progress and continue to invest in its future.”