A Breathtaking View of Graceland’s Future
Angie Delk, Graceland Class of 2015, is excitedly waiting for the new Shaw Center to open its doors.
Since her first day at Graceland in fall 2011, there has been a fence surrounding the massive construction site. She has yet to see the much-anticipated, original art in the north-facing gallery, watch a theatre performance in the JR black box Theatre, or play her flute in the acoustically-perfect Carol Hall.
Angie doesn’t have much longer to wait. The amazing Shaw Center expansion and renovation is moving ahead faster than ever. Gala dedication ceremonies are being planned for Homecoming weekend this fall, October 19-21. The most dramatic facility makeover in Graceland history is getting closer and closer to the finish line. It is scheduled to be ready when classes start August 28.
“It’s suspenseful, watching it grow every day,” said Angie. “I want it to be open now. It has been amazing to see the progress as each day goes by. The huge new windows have been going in and I’m getting a better idea of what it is going to look like. I’m just super excited for it to open.”
In a few short months, the acoustically perfect recital hall will host talent from Graceland students and famous musicians like Jens Lindemann.’
The building’s transformation was made possible by the largest single gift in university history from JR, a 1956 GU graduate, and Carol Shaw. The Shaw family funded the original Shaw Center, dedicating it in 1982 to JR’s parents, Francis and Lottie Shaw. President John Sellars has enjoyed hosting JR during his several visits to campus in the last year to view construction progress. “It has been a joy to spend time with JR. He is very excited about this project,” the president remarked.
An extravaganza of dedication ceremonies during Homecoming this fall will feature a stream of entertainment, both home-grown and from around the world. The new Shaw Center is going to be a very busy place, both during Homecoming Weekend 2012, and for many years to come.
A week-long slate of celebratory events is planned leading up to the actual dedication ceremonies on Friday, October 19. There will be vocal and piano performances and a hymn sing in Carol Hall. Maestro Professor Jack Ergo will ‘wow’ his fans, as always, with several recitals in Carol Hall on Graceland’s beautiful Steinway piano. There will be student recitals, band concerts and a special play in the JR Theatre.
Then the fireworks begin – and there are actually fireworks being planned for the dedication! On Friday, there are plans for Jens Lindemann, perhaps the greatest trumpet soloist in the world, will conduct master classes for students and others in Carol Hall. Later that evening Lindemann will appear in concert in the transformed Shaw Family Auditorium. This performance promises to be among the most exciting events in recent history and the buzz about his presence on campus has already begun. Lindemann is celebrated around the world and has won about every award for a brass player that exists. He performed with the renowned Canadian Brass from 1996 to 2001 and since then has performed at major concert venues across the globe. He performed May 8 this year at Carnegie Hall.
Lindemann is currently a professor with high distinction at UCLA and was a Distinguished Visiting Artist at Shenandoah Conservatory of Shenandoah University in Winchester, Virginia. He has also taught at the Banff Centre in Banff, Alberta, Canada. Lindemann studied at the Juilliard School of Music, McGill University and received an honorary doctorate from McMaster University.
There are plans for internationally-known actor Arliss Howard, who has a list of film credits a yard long, will be in residence, working with Graceland Theatre Professor Tracy Salter. Master classes are scheduled and plans are being made to get Howard involved in a JR Theatre production. Howard has been a prodigious actor since the early 1980s, working in television and on Broadway, but primarily in movies. His credits include Big Bad Love (co-starring his wife, actress Debra Winger), Men Don’t Leave, The Time Traveler’s Wife, Plain Clothes and the 2011 production, Moneyball.
Howard grew up in Independence, MO and graduated from Truman High School. Howard and Winger have appeared together in several productions at the American Repertory Theatre (ART) in Harvard Square, Cambridge, MA.
The building’s progression, particularly in recent months, has been dramatic. The roof of Carol Hall was beautifully pieced together like a giant mosaic, allowing construction of seating risers inside to begin. Glass windows have enclosed the north corridor and art gallery, providing a dramatic view of where world-class art will soon hang – also donated by JR and Carol Shaw. The stunning JR Theatre is really taking shape. We can only imagine what tremendous productions we will see there in the future. The building’s open, airy atrium is materializing before the eyes of students as they walk by and sneak peeks through the fence. They can now picture where they will enter the building to attend their classes, enjoy a recital, see a theatre production, or just hang out in the atrium, a special area we are calling the new “living room of campus”.
President Sellars has marveled along with our students as the transformation has taken place. “As I have watched progress from the third floor of the Higdon Administration Building, it has been amazing to see how quickly the Shaw has taken shape,” he said. “The transformation of our campus is one of the most dramatic things I have ever witnessed.”
Kurt Remmenga, Director of Facility Services, has been a very busy man this year, and a very excited Gracelander. Overseeing the metamorphosis of the Shaw Center has been one of the highlights of his career at the university. “The building is just about enclosed,” he said. “After that the changes won’t be as visibly dramatic, but there is a lot going on inside. We’ll be conditioning the interior for finishes, letting the building dry out, painting, hanging dry wall and wood paneling, commissioning the heating and cooling, and installing all of the specialized theatrical equipment” he said.
Upon completion, the Shaw will surely be one of the Midwest’s premier centers for the fine arts. Additional features will include the 625-seat Shaw Family Auditorium, complete with orchestra pit and state-of-the-art audio visual and lighting capabilities. There will also be a sprung vinyl floor movement studio, new music and theatre classrooms, and an outdoor amphitheater to accent the new pedestrian center of campus.
The Shaw Center’s yearlong progress can be viewed with nearly 400 photos on the Graceland Facebook Page . If you would like to see a quick, change-by-change, chronological tour, we have created a Shaw Center Progress gallery (click on image to the left) that we invite you to browse. The tour includes 12 photos with captions, allowing you to navigate the building’s progress since groundbreaking at Commencement 2011.
With the Shaw Center scheduled for completion in three short months, Angie Delk and her fellow students will be able to experience the Shaw like never before.
“I’m in the Symphonic Band and we will have one of the first performances [October 18th} in the new Shaw auditorium,” said Angie. “I’m so excited for that, and I’m actually kind of nervous too. It’s going to be amazing to have a concert in such a beautiful facility, to try out the new Carol Hall and to have a showplace on campus where we can perform and practice our music.”
Graceland is now positioned to join nationally-known, fine arts-focused universities from around the country. And, most importantly, JR and Carol Shaw are creating a stunning space for our students to enjoy and to relax, to explore their passions, to grow and learn, and to just have fun.
Lee Bash, Special Consultant for GU Visual and Performing Arts, perhaps captures best the importance of the Shaw transformation in this way: “It will strengthen our commitment to the liberal arts and enhance our focus on the visual and performing arts. It is then that Graceland will identify its commitment to excellence and provide a world-class venue for quality performances.”