Viterbo University Fine Arts Center History
In The Beginning…
On October 9, 1965, Sister Grace Mc Donald, FSPA, announced plans for the addition of a fine arts center to the expanding Viterbo campus. By 1967, the federal government had approved a $2.5 million loan and a $1 million grant. In addition, $500,000 was raised through donations by local corporations, individuals, and a capital fund drive, increasing the amount raised to $4 million. Saint Rose Convent pledged $500,000, with a contingency guarantee of another $200,000. Local banks backed the remaining shortfall of the $5.2 million project.
On March 19, 1969, ground was broken for the new Viterbo College Fine Arts Center. The exterior structure was to be completed by Christmas but, to the surprise of the Viterbo community, a “topping off” ceremony was held in late August when the last beam was set into place. The cornerstone of the building was placed on September 17, 1970. Art, theatre, and drama departments took up residency in the new facility over the winter break, 1970-1971.
Facts and Statistics…
Architects: Briemaier, Sherer &Sherer; Milwaukee, WI
Theatre Consultants: George C. Izenour Associates, Inc.; New Haven, CT
Acoustical Consultant: Lyle F. Yerges; Downers Grove, IL
General Contractor: Nelson, Inc. of Wisconsin; Racine, WI
HVAC Work: Kuetemeyer Plumbing Co., Inc.; Milwaukee, WI
Electrical Work: John P. Mader; La Crosse, WI
Plumbing and Sewer Work: Hengel Brothers, Inc.; La Crosse, WI
Special Building Features…
Main Theatre- Variable in audience capacity through movable ceiling panels to create 535, 748, or 1,123 seats; converts from a proscenium theatre into a concert hall with a specially designed acoustic shell; completely equipped and adaptable to accommodate drama, musical comedy, opera, ballet, concerts, lectures, and conferences.
Recital Hall- Includes seating for up to 178 for solo and small group ensemble performances with adjoining Hospitality Suite.
Black Box Theatre- Includes seating for up to 184 for dramatic presentations and allowing for variable placement of the audience, such as arena staging with the audience on all four sides or thrust staging with the audience on three sides.
Dance Studios- For training dancers and presenting special dance performances, located in the basement and on first floor of the Fine Arts Center.
Art Galleries- Located on the art floor of the academic wing and throughout the lobby areas of the building and the Main Theatre.
An excerpt from the book Continuity and Change; The History of Viterbo College, 1890-1980, by Sister Theodine Sebold
A wealth of co-curricular activity paralleled the expansion of and diversification occurring in academic areas. With the opening of the multi-million dollar Fine Arts Center, the college had the facilities for showcasing campus talent in music, art, and drama, and for featuring nationally acclaimed guest artists. The presence of minority and foreign students provided diversity and global consciousness to an otherwise homogeneous, Midwestern, white student body. In 1978, the college had students enrolled from Asia, Africa, Europe, Central and South America. Travel became a frequent vehicle for learning for Viterbo students. More than 20 overseas trips for over 200 Viterbo travelers were sponsored by Viterbo College Tours under Sister Bernyne Stark. Students went to Mississippi with Sister Thea Bowman to study Faulkner and Welty on location, and to Stratford, Ontario, Canada, for Shakespeare. Sociology and art departments co-sponsored field trips to Chicago, and chemistry faculty and students went to Argonne National Laboratory near Chicago to conduct experiments. The Marianettes, under Sister Arlene Laverdiere in 1973, and the concert choir, under Dan Johnson-Wilmot in 1976, began a tradition of periodic concert tours to European areas.
Next, “Changes are coming”: additions, remodeling, and the 25th anniversary of the Fine Arts Center.
To be continued….Please visit again.