CEDAR CITY – In his play, “As You Like It,” William Shakespeare famously wrote: “All the world’s a stage.” If that is true, it could be said that the new Beverley Taylor Sorenson Center for the Arts located on the Southern Utah University campus in Cedar City, is a stage for all the world.
The state-of-the-art center which was dedicated in a celebratory ceremony Thursday morning is home base for the Tony Award winning Utah Shakespeare Festival as well as the new Southern Utah Museum of Arts.
“The Beverley” as the center was endearingly nicknamed is a beacon not just for Southern Utah or Utah but for the whole nation and the world, said Ken Verdoia, chair of the Utah Division of Arts and Museums and the dedication’s emcee.
It is a beacon of what passionate people from a small town can achieve if they are allowed, even commanded to dream big, Verdoia said.
Such was the case with Fred C. Adams, founder of the Utah Shakespeare Festival, who has passionately pursued his dream of creating a world class Shakespeare Festival and having a world class facility to complement it.
For Adams, the dedication of the Beverley Taylor Sorenson Center for the Arts was the culmination of a decades-long dream, he said.
“It has been a long time coming,” Adams said, adding that the process has been a labor of love.
During the ceremony Adams was recognized from the podium and the crowd of people in attendance stood in ovation for the festival founder.
The $39.1 million facility is set to become a fine arts mecca for Cedar City. The all-encompassing art hub houses the Southern Utah Museum of Art, the Eileen and Allen Anes Studio Theatre, the outdoor Greenshow stage, festival administration buildings, the Randall L. Jones Theatre and the new outdoor Engelstad Shakespeare Theatre.
The Engelstad Shakespeare Theatre takes the place of the Adams Memorial Shakespearean Theatre which was used for its final season in 2015 before it made way for the new performance space.
Why the arts?
Scott L. Wyatt, President of SUU, spoke at the dedication. In his address he asked the question: Why the arts?
Wyatt’s answer was twofold; one, the arts are instrumental; and two, the arts have intrinsic value.
The arts are instrumental as a tool, Wyatt said, to boost the economy and particularly, to strengthen education.
And indeed, arts education has been gaining more ground from the elementary school level on up thanks in large part to the passion and efforts of the new art center’s namesake; Beverley Taylor Sorenson.
Sorenson (1924-2013), devoted her life to enhancing arts funding and education, press material for the dedication said.
Sorenson believed in the power that art had to impact a child’s life and she tirelessly developed art education programs including the Art Works for Kids program, and garnered funding to bring her programs to as many schools as possible.
In 2008, the press material said, the Utah State Legislature recognized Sorenson’s efforts “by adopting the model her team developed and naming the initiative the Beverley Taylor Sorenson Arts Learning Program.”
But beyond their importance to economy and education, art has an intrinsic value, Wyatt said.
“Art is good, because it is good,” Wyatt said.
Wyatt listed several virtues the arts provide:
- Art builds character, thoughts and expands horizons.
- Art helps people develop empathy.
- Art makes communities safer.
- Art helps people to understand the world around us.
- Art helps to develop a people fit for democracy.
- Art makes the world less homogeneous and more pluralistic.
The new Beverley Taylor Sorenson Center for the Arts will change lives and build communities, Wyatt said, adding, that is what art does for people.
“The arts are not just a nice little part of our life that we put in our back pocket,” Verdoia said. “They’re right next to the heart and the brain.”
“You can’t knock the day”
Hundreds of people packed the Simmons Family Plaza which is located just outside the Eileen and Allen Anes Studio Theatre to attend the dedication which paid tribute to the many people who were involved with the facility’s funding, design, construction and completion.
“The crowd was more than we anticipated,” Adams said.
The event was a celebration of the arts which featured several speakers, music provided by the Orchestra of Southern Utah and a performance of “This is the Moment” by actor and Utah Shakespeare Festival alumnus, Kyle Olsen.
The dedication for the new art center was attended by several dignitaries including Gov. Gary Herbert and his wife, Jeanette, representatives of Senators Orrin Hatch and Mike Lee and Rep. Chris Stewart, Iron County commissioners and Cedar City Mayor Maile Wilson, along with board members and staff of the Utah Shakespeare Festival and others.
Members of the Sorenson family participated in a ribbon cutting which acted as the official opening of The Beverley.
“Everything that we hoped for happened,” Adams said. “The weather was absolutely beautiful, the buildings are ready and they look wonderful … and golly, you know, you can’t knock the day. It went really well and I am so pleased.”
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