NEARLY 600 ATTEND “SNEAK PREVIEW”                                                                                                 

Image: Judy Loeffler (left) and Dee Kennedy tour the galleries
Two Franklin residents Judy Loeffler (left), a Western Carolina Community Chorus member, and Dee Kennedy, a Western alumna, check out the galleries of Western's new Fine Art Museum.
Image: Members of St. Louis Brass Quintet
Members of the St. Louis Brass Quintet on stage.

CULLOWHEE – A crowd of nearly 600 people got a sneak preview of Western Carolina University's major “coming attraction” during an open house Tuesday, Oct. 11, for the new $30 million, 122,000-square-foot Fine and Performing Arts Center, an event that featured a free performance by the St. Louis Brass Quintet.

The performance, part of the annual Lectures, Concerts and Exhibitions Series at Western, provided the staff and crew of the Fine and Performing Arts Center an opportunity to test in front of a live audience the sound and lighting systems in the new facility before its official grand opening the weekend of Oct. 22-23.

 “The evening was a great musical treat as well as a showcase for the facility,” said Robert Kehrberg, interim dean of Western's College of Arts and Sciences. “I was especially pleased to see the community support with hundreds of community members in attendance. The facility lived up to its advance billing and provided a warm and inviting atmosphere, as well as excellent acoustic arena for the arts.”

In addition to enjoying the performance by the St. Louis Brass Quintet, the crowd – a mix of community art patrons and university students, faculty and staff – toured the art galleries, performance space and back-stage areas of the building.

Audience members roared their approval as Paul Lormand, director of the performance space in the center, welcomed them to the first show in the center: “To quote the late, great Jackie Gleason, ‘How sweet it is!'” Lormand thanked Western Chancellor John W. Bardo, local supporters of the arts and members of the campus community for helping make the long-awaited facility possible.

Funded as part of the 2000 higher education bond referendum approved by N.C. voters in 2000, the Fine and Performing Arts Center includes a 1,000-seat auditorium capable of hosting Broadway-quality productions, and four separate art galleries and atrium space comprising nearly 10,000 square feet to house and display Western's permanent collection, and rotating displays of contemporary art and student work.

The center is designed as a tribute to the Cherokee people, with signage in Cherokee and English, and a lobby featuring ceramic tiles in the form of a seven-point star representing the seven Cherokee tribal clans. Harrah's Cherokee Casino and Hotel and the Cherokee Preservation Foundation have provided major contributions to help fund activities within the center.

The facility will officially open during a sold-out gala featuring “Tonight Show” host and comedian Jay Leno on Saturday Oct. 22, followed by the opening of the Fine Art Museum on Sund ay, Oct. 23, as five concurrent exhibitions are unveiled. The exhibition premiere and artists' reception will be held from 1 until 3 p.m., and are open to the public free of charge. The grand opening celebration is in conjunction with “In the Mood,” a Big Band musical revue, to begin at 3 p.m.

The Oct. 22-23 weekend kicks off a year of special events in the Fine and Performing Arts Center, including a multi-media performance featuring film clips from director Alfred Hitchcock set to the music of composer Bernard Herrmann as performed live by the Asheville Symphony Orchestra at 8 p.m. Thursday, Oct. 27; and a free concert by the President's Own United States Marine Band, America's oldest professional music organization, at 7:30 p.m. Friday, Nov. 18.

“In the Mood” is the inaugural production of the eight-show 2005-06 Subscription Series in the center. The Subscription Series includes performances by the Atlanta Ballet, Grammy Award-winning musical group Riders in the Sky, “An Evening with Groucho,” the Von Trapp Children from “The Sound of Music,” illusionist Craig Karges, a salute to the music of Billy Joel and Elton John, and the “techno-circus” of Luma.

Patrons may subscribe to the entire eight-show series for $100. Individual show tickets also are available. Ticket prices are $20 for adults; $17 for senior citizens; $15 for Western faculty or staff; $9 for children age 3 to 17; $7 for non-WCU college students; and $5 for Western students. Group rates also are available.

For more information about performances, call the box office at (828) 227-2479. For more information about exhibits, call the gallery office at (828) 227-3591. For more information about the Fine and Performing Arts Center, visit the Web site at .

Maintained by the WCU Office of Public Relations
Last modified: Thursday, October 13, 2005
Copyright 2005 by Western Carolina University