Colorado State University Celebrates the Grand Opening of the State-of-the-Art University Center for the Arts

Colorado State University celebrates the completion of the $45 million University Center for the Arts with a ribbon-cutting ceremony at 1 p.m. Oct. 16 on the front steps of the new center, 1400 Remington St. in Fort Collins.

The campus and local communities are invited to attend a free barbecue at noon, complete with the CSU Pep Band playing spirited tunes, followed by the ribbon-cutting ceremony and an open house at University Center for the Arts from 1-3 p.m. A Fort Collins High School alumni "Alma Mater Sing" will be at 1:30 p.m. on the grand staircase landing.

The University Center for the Arts, or UCA, located in the renovated old Fort Collins High School, is home to Colorado State’s School of the Arts. The UCA is a world-class facility with its comprehensive design to support all art forms. It is the first time in university history in which programs in music, theatre, dance and art will be housed under one roof. The UCA provides the platform required for the School of the Arts to achieve new levels of national and international excellence as well as offering a cultural center to the Fort Collins and Northern Colorado communities.

"A rich understanding of human thought and achievement is essential to higher education and the true independence of the human spirit," said Larry Edward Penley, president of Colorado State University. "I made the completion of the University Center for the Arts one of my highest priorities because of its importance to our programs, students, and faculty in the fine arts. The UCA would not have been completed without the leadership and commitment of our own students. Through their commitment the UCA now ranks among the finest facilities of its kind in the country."

About the Building Project

The UCA project was completed in three phases that began in 1995 when Fort Collins High School closed its doors and the university purchased the building. Construction on the first phase of the project – the groundbreaking of the 550-seat Edna Rizley Griffin Concert Hall – began in 2003.

The second phase was marked by the start of construction on the $4.7 million Bohemian Complex. The 37,000-square-foot retrofit of the former high school includes the 318-seat University Theatre, 100-seat Studio Theatre and 2,400-square-foot William Runyon Music Hall located in the former high school’s gymnasium. Another 4,500 square feet provided space for production shops, dressing room, green room, audio-visual equipment rooms and other supporting spaces.

The third and final phase completes the University Center for the Arts with the renovations of the majority of the old Fort Collins High School. The new spaces include the University Art Museum, Avenir Museum of Design and Merchandising, 285-seat Organ Recital Hall and 200-seat University Dance Theatre. The University Dance Theatre has been designed and built specifically for dance performance – the only such venue in Northern Colorado and only one of the few in Colorado.

Funding for the building was largely secured through a vote by CSU’s student body government. Associated Students for Colorado State University voted to increase student fees in the spring of 2005, which provided $29.6 million for the project. The remainder of the funding came from private donations including the Bohemian Foundation, Griffin Foundation, Kenneth and Myra Monfort Founding and the Serimus Foundation.

"We are deeply grateful to these donors and to the students of Colorado State for funding the University Center for the Arts," said Ann Gill, dean of the College of Liberal Arts. "We now dedicate ourselves to the challenge of taking the arts programs and performances to amazing new heights. Everything we achieve in this new space will be in honor of their investment in our future."

About the Facility

The new 225,550-square-foot facility provides five state-of-the-art performance venues: the Griffin Concert Hall, the University Theatre and Studio Theatre in the Bohemian Theatre Complex, the University Dance Theatre and the Organ Recital Hall.

Along with the performance venues, the UCA houses 11 classroom and seminar rooms; composition, computer, and piano labs; the largest instrumental rehearsal hall in the state; ensemble and performance libraries; two large acting labs; a Computer-Aided Design (CAD) lab; costume and scenic shops and storage; three dance studios totaling more than 6,500 square feet; 36 soundproof rehearsal rooms; and teaching studios, offices and support spaces. It is also home to the research facilities of the Center for Biomedical Research in Music – one of the world’s leading centers in brain research in music perception and neurorehabilitation. The new design studio, digital lab, lighting lab and sound/video booth give students the opportunity to learn the most technologically advanced production skills.  

"The UCA is much more than a great building. It is a comprehensive concept and philosophy of excellence in thought, discovery and knowledge that are physically embodied in a building structure that is truly an all-inclusive art campus," said Michael Thaut, co-director of the School of the Arts and chairman of the Department of Music, Theatre and Dance. "This is a historical time, and we are a fortunate generation in that many colleagues and students, long before us, have worked and hoped for the new School of the Arts and the UCA to become reality. We honor the vision and treat this grand and unique opportunity with gratitude, respect and renewed energy."   

The newly renovated facility also includes two museums, as well as office and seminar spaces for art history and art education. For the visual arts, the new University Art Museum is equipped with museum-standard climate control systems, lighting and security, and designed to safely exhibit and store works of art at ideal temperature and humidity levels. The proximity of teaching facilities for art history allows access for coordinated study of the collections. Additionally, the Avenir Museum of Design and Merchandising, newly named with a $1.25 million gift from the Avenir Foundation, is the permanent showcase of CSU’s renowned historic costume collection from the Department of Design and Merchandising in the College of Applied Human Sciences.

Both museums will officially open in April 2009.

Based in Denver with specific expertise in higher education facilities and historic preservation, SLATERPAULL Architects was selected as the architect for the adaptive re-use, renovation and addition design for the UCA. Since 1972, SLATERPAULL has been creating spaces for education, civic services, worship and performance. The firm is currently designing the new student union at Western State College and a pre-K-8 prototype school for the Aurora Public School District, both in Colorado.

Performance Architecture is a New Orleans-based architecture and design firm specializing in the master planning and design of performing arts and fine arts centers across the country. Members of the firm have more than 70 combined years of experience in performing-arts design, including the University Center for the Arts in conjunction with SLATERPAULL Architects.

Established in Colorado in 1967, GE Johnson Construction Company provided construction management and general contracting services for the UCA. With offices in Denver and Colorado Springs, GE Johnson specializes in healthcare, educational, cultural arts, commercial office, hospitality, correctional, residential and advanced technology projects throughout the Rocky Mountain region.

Grand Opening Events

During the community open house on Oct. 16, the decades-old Fort Collins High School tradition of singing the FCHS Alma Mater on the grand staircase landing will be honored. Fort Collins High School alumni are invited to sing on the landing led by a special guest conductor. The CSU Choirs, directed by James Kim, will carry on this tradition with a presentation of the Colorado State University Alma Mater.

The University Dance Theatre will celebrate its grand opening with performances by the international dance company, Diavolo Dance Theatre. Directed by Jacques Heim, the company is comprised of dancers, gymnasts and actors and includes CSU alumna Erica Juergens-Bow. In addition to performances on Oct.17 and 18, Diavolo will host a 10-day residency at Colorado State. CSU students and community members will have the opportunity to take master classes with the company. For more information about the Diavolo master classes, contact Linda Parent at (970) 491-5562. To purchase tickets, visit

The Chamber Orchestra and CSU’s choirs will collaborate for a Haydn Celebration at 7:30 p.m. Oct. 17 and 2 p.m. Oct. 19 in the Griffin Concert Hall. Enjoy the performance of two works by the famous Austrian composer: "Symphony No 101 ‘The Clock" and the "Lord Nelson Mass." To purchase tickets, visit   

Coinciding with the University Center for the Arts grand opening is the return to campus of one of the three Campbell’s Tomato Soup Cans signed by Andy Warhol. The soup cans, created in collaboration with Warhol for the opening of the "Warhol at Colorado State University" exhibit, were signed by Warhol upon his arrival at the art building on Sept. 1, 1981. The massive can resided on the Department of Art’s front lawn until 1986 and is being installed as the third piece in the developing UCA Sculpture Gardens.

The School of the Arts presents "Meet Me at the UCA" as this season’s theme for the full schedule of concerts, shows and exhibitions. To view the fall 2008 performance and exhibition guide, visit