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New Westminster Venue for Performing Arts and Music

 By Brent Wilhite 

 A May pole, modern dance, choir music, and a mime performance--this was definitely not your typical ground-breaking ceremony.
May Day 2003 began a new era of community performances and performing arts education at Westminster, as the college began construction on a 28,000-square-foot expansion of the Jewett Center for the Performing Arts. 

 The new Emma Eccles Jones Conservatory will provide the space needed for Westminster's popular arts program to expand, allowing for more students, accommodating larger audiences, and making it possible to stage more performances. Dean of Arts and Sciences Mary Jane Chase's comments at the event resonated with the audience as she characterized the new addition as a "great moment" for programs that "have been spilling out everywhere." The crowd roared with applause as she explained that the expansion will include a black box theater, real practice rooms, and a recital hall "actually designed for music."  

The light sprinkling of May showers didn't stop Westminster officials, students, and noted guests from celebrating the ground breaking of the new conservatory. Instead, the group crowded the theater inside to witness the return of a beloved Westminster tradition--a dance around the May pole. 

In addition to the perfect blend of movement, color, and music the students offered in the May pole dance, other performances included a madrigal, a modern dance, a mime performance, and a musical solo. 

Several speakers dotted the program, including Clark Giles of the Emma Eccles Jones Foundation; Spencer West, a student in Westminster's theater program; Mary Jane Chase, Dean of the School of Arts and Sciences; and President Michael Bassis.

President Bassis explained how faculty and administration have gone to great lengths to preserve the trees affected by the construction. "Most of the trees were saved," he said, "and a number were relocated to Sugarhouse Park, where they will become a memorial grove dedicated to the college." Upon completion of the building, twenty new trees will enhance the surrounding landscape. He also thanked a number of philanthropic groups that made the expansion possible, including the Emma Eccles Jones Foundation, the Dumke and McCarthy families, and the Ray S. Quinney Foundation.

Westminster's new Emma Eccles Jones Conservatory will profoundly impact those with a passion for the performing arts. The new facility, totaling 53,000 square feet, should be completed by Fall 2004.