New Fine and Performing Arts Center Gears Up for Grand Opening
By Auburn Mann
Although Bowie State University broke ground for its new Fine and Performing Arts Center back on Oct. 9, 2009, it is now ready to make its debut to the wider community. Now, two and a half years later, after all the unsightly and noisy construction, after all the traffic and parking inconvenience, after all the substantial monetary investments, the $71-million dollar facility will officially be unveiled to faculty, staff, and students.
The new place provides Bowie State’s fine and performing arts majors with a much needed space where they can practice their art. Prior to the move last January, the department shared space with three other academic departments in the Martin Luther King Jr. Communications Arts Center.
“We moved out of a place that was around 40,000 square-feet, into a facility that is over 123,000 square-feet. If you compare it in terms of sheer volume, it’s similar to moving from a Volkswagen into a Rolls Royce,” said Dr. Clarence Knight, the department chair. In comparison to the MLK, which includes a single auditorium that must be adapted for vastly different artistic performances, the new state-of-the art facilities provide professional surroundings and equipment for aspiring artists.
The new facilities include a recital hall, black box theater, movement studio and main stage theater among other world-class amenities. One thing that they don’t have to put up with is the artistic interference that was common in the cramped MLK building. “The acoustics in here are nearly perfect,” Knight said. “In the MLK, if the band was rehearsing downstairs you could hear it all over the building. Now if they play, I could be on the same floor and I’m not even aware they are playing.”
Now that it’s been over a full semester since its opening, the new center is ready to be embraced by the general public. The center kicks off the fall season on Sept. 20 with “Bearden at Bowie,” which will be an exhibition of limited edition pieces from renowned artist Romare Bearden. The show will run through Oct. 31. The exhibition is the result of collaboration between Bowie State and several local art collectors. Thirty-five pieces of Bearden’s work are being loaned for the show. The artworks depicts themes such as Homer’s epic tale “Odyssey” (one of the subjects which defined Bearden’s career), rural scenes delineating North Carolina countryside, jazz, and nature inspired paintings.
Bowie State studio art professor Clayton Lang, who is serving as the gallery director, conceived this idea last summer after visiting several art museums in New York City, which are home to many of Bearden’s greatest paintings and collages, in celebration of the centennial anniversary of the artist’s birth. “[This is] even better than bringing the museum to the university. It will be the equivalent of going to see the work in a museum,” Lang said. In addition, Bearden’s niece, Deidra Harris-Kelly, co-director of the Bearden Foundation, is set to attend the opening reception on Sept. 25 in the Recital Hall.
The center will host the 2012 Arts Gala Awards on Nov. 17, Knight said. With a generous sponsorship from the Prince George’s Arts and Humanities Council, the evening will feature an ensemble of musical performances, including Grammy Award-winning jazz vocalist Dianne Schuur, jazz pianist Cyrus Chestnut, as well as plenty of Bulldog talent such as vocal major Adia Wright, The Clarence Knight Orchestra, Magical Singers Jazz, The Fine and Performing Arts Dance troupe are all scheduled to grace the stage. The evening will also entail a silent auction, and a plaque presented to the department by the Steinway Piano Company designating the department as an all-Steinway entity.
“This is not merely a building, it’s a center,” Knight said. “In contrast to a building, a center possesses a synergetic quality.” The fact that the facility is constructed to house multiple artistic venues, and can host each simultaneously in blended brilliance, [makes this] center truly more than the sum of its parts.”