A beam signing ceremony held Jan. 13 for the new Academic Performing Arts Center (APAC) at The University of Texas-Pan American evoked both nostalgia and joy for Dr. Dahlia Guerra.
"This wonderful new facility will build on the history of what was once our Fine Arts Auditorium. That facility attracted musicians from all over the world, it attracted notable figures such as U.S. Presidents and also served our own students, faculty and community as a center of artistic activity. At this new center, however, we are going to build new memories," she said.
More than 100 people gathered to hear the latest on the APAC's progress and demonstrate their support by signing the bright yellow beam that was on display. Three members of the South Texas legislative delegation - State Senator Juan "Chuy" Hinojosa and State Representatives Bobby Guerra and Terry Canales - were also on hand to offer their support and signatures. Hinojosa helped secure the legislative approval of the tuition revenue bonds that provide the major portion of the APAC's funding. The remaining funds to construct it came from the state's Higher Education Assistance Fund.
The new 60,000-square-foot facility (Building A on the APAC website) that will house a 1,000-seat auditorium with state-of-the-art acoustics, rehearsal halls for band, choir, mariachi and orchestra students and a spacious lobby is expected to be completed by late this year. The renovations of two existing buildings (Buildings B & C) in the fine arts complex that provide classrooms, faculty offices, practice rooms and labs are scheduled to be complete in July 2014. The total cost of the new facility and renovations is nearly $43 million.
"When the old auditorium was built, we only had 60 music majors, now we have approximately 300. There were no practice rooms for individual instruction or practice. We used to have kids outside rehearsing in the sun with mosquitoes and flies," she said.
A 150-seat recital hall, planned for initially, was eliminated when budget cuts affected the APAC's funding. The University is currently working to raise the $4 million required to build the recital hall, a vital space necessary for smaller student and faculty performances and to conduct master classes. High schools from across the region will also use the recital hall for University Interscholastic League music competitions. In addition, the music department's future and continued accreditation - through the National Association of Schools of Music and the Texas Association of Music Schools - depends on the existence of a recital hall.
"The recital hall is a missing piece. Our students need an area to perform weekly, constantly. We need this smaller area, an area that only seats 150 people like a chamber auditorium. These students won't get that proper education without that recital hall," Guerra said.
Both Guerra and UTPA President Robert S. Nelsen, who welcomed the crowd, stressed the importance of the Rio Grande Valley's unique culture and inherent talent of the University's students.
"This is a building celebrating our Valley culture," Nelsen said. "We are about to start a new university. We have to bring the Valley together. What will bring the Valley together better than anything is the arts. It is the arts that will allow us to be one region, one Valley, one place."
Beam signing by students, faculty, staff, and community members continued through Jan. 14. The beam is planned for display when the APAC is completed. For more information on the APAC or to find out how you can provide support for the recital hall, go to the APAC website at www.utpa.edu/apac or you may contact the UTPA Development Office at (956) 665-5301.