Transformative News for the Arts at UVA!
The Arts at UVA are on the verge of a game-changing moment that will forever change the University’s literal and figurative arts landscape and significantly impact the educational and cultural experience of the University and the larger community it calls home.
Last fall, President Jim Ryan announced a remarkable $50 million lead gift from Tessa Ader for the construction of a multidisciplinary Center for the Arts in the Emmet-Ivy corridor.
“I am excited and humbled by Tessa’s decision to help us provide a new home for the arts at UVA,” Ryan said. “Her gift, which clearly stems from a love of all forms of creativity, will provide the UVA community with new opportunities for participation in the arts. It will also warmly invite the broader community to Grounds through performances by world-renowned artists and our talented students. The Center for the Arts will be a place that celebrates the arts as fundamental to the human condition, a university education, and a democratic society.”
The Center for the Arts will include a Performing Arts Center, currently in the early stages of its design process, including a 1,100-plus-seat concert hall and a 150-seat recital hall that will boast superior acoustic properties and rehearsal studios and a highly adaptable experimental arts space. The facility will feature focused practice spaces for music ensembles and performance groups, allowing for the continued expansion of arts programming in the College of Arts & Sciences. In addition, it will serve as an important cultural bridge between the University and its surrounding communities by creating a platform for national and international touring artists that will host a wide range of unforgettable artistic experiences for students, alumni, and community members.
“This extraordinary gift from Tessa Ader will transform the landscape for the arts at UVA and serve as a bridge to the Charlottesville community,” said Jody Kielbasa, Vice Provost for the Arts and Director of the Virginia Film Festival. “It is also the beginning of what I hope will become a creative nexus at the Emmet-Ivy corridor as we look to relocate the Museums and expand our arts programming. The Center for the Arts will create an inviting entry for patrons of the arts to access the University. It will also play an important role in elevating the local arts ecosystem by connecting the surrounding community while elevating Charlottesville as a regional cultural center.”
Tessa Ader is a passionate and devoted supporter of the arts at the University and in the Charlottesville community. She and her late husband, Richard Ader, are honorary members of the advisory board for The Fralin Museum of Art at the University of Virginia. In December of 2020, Tessa Ader created the Richard M. and Tessa G. Ader Endowed Fund for Music Education at the Charlottesville Symphony at the University of Virginia.
“Richard and I long felt that a state-of-the-art Performing Arts Center was needed by the University of Virginia,” Mrs. Ader said. “As a longtime trustee of The Joseph and Robert Cornell Memorial Foundation, Richard and his co-trustee Joe Erdman made transformative gifts to the University and Charlottesville in support of the arts. I believe this new facility will be a wonderful asset to our community and am hopeful my gift will encourage others to come forward as well to make it a reality.”
For Erdman (Col.’56), the new Center for the Arts is essential to the University’s continued academic and cultural profile. “When I think back to my time here as a student,” he said, “I am amazed by how far the arts at UVA have come. However, I have always believed that you cannot have a major university without a first-class Performing Arts Center that can offer outstanding educational and performance opportunities for our students, our UVA community, and the surrounding community.”
The new complex will have a direct and lasting impact on students in various ways, from providing ample rehearsal spaces to offering experience both onstage and behind-the-scenes with state-of-the-art spaces and technology. One arts leader on Grounds said he believes that the mere existence of these types of venues can go a long way toward cultivating talent and elevating performances.
“The simplest way I can say this is context matters,” said Michael Slon, Assistant Professor of Music and Director of Choral Programs at UVA. “When you are a musician, or a dancer, or an actor, or whatever other kind of artist you happen to be, and you walk into a particular space, that space itself can elevate you and your fellow performers. This new Center for the Arts, with its state-of-the-art design and the very latest in acoustic innovations, has the potential to magnify the artistic work of the University and to inspire a level of artistic work that might not be possible in other venues.”
That work, Slon said, will create what he called a “banquet feast” for the community. “In addition to allowing the University to welcome world-class artists across so many genres, the facility will give arts leaders across Grounds the opportunity to achieve types and scales of work they simply cannot currently take on given existing facilities. “This will open up so many new artistic and educational opportunities for students and faculty, from performances to lectures and so much more that has the potential to showcase the arts here in a way we never could before.”
According to Benjamin Rous, Music Director of the Charlottesville Symphony, the new Center for the Arts will also allow the Symphony to serve the uniquely vibrant Charlottesville arts scene with experiences it is currently unable to offer. “At the Charlottesville Symphony,” he said, “we are blessed with robust interest in our art form but often stymied by the spaces available to house it. The new Center for the Arts will allow us to create experiences and events that we cannot do now.” These events, he said, include dynamic collaborations that can extend the reach of UVA arts and expand the creative horizons of students and audiences alike. “Right now, there are collaborations and events stuck waiting in the wings – collaborations that the new center will bring center stage. In this and so many other ways, the center will be transformative for Charlottesville Symphony and for the entire culture of performing arts in Central Virginia.”
Associate Professor and Head & Artistic Director of Dance Kim Brooks Mata is excited about the potential that a new Center for the Arts can expose her dance students to the work of nationally and internationally renowned dance companies and provide much-needed dedicated rehearsal spaces for her program. “A center like this one would not only expose our students to a vast array of creative artists and their choreographic works but also potentially provide those students with unique opportunities to engage in talk-backs, master classes, and workshops with the professional artists who will be coming through Charlottesville. It is very exciting to think about the kinds of thrilling, transformative exchanges that might take place in a dance studio space, and equally, and perhaps even more exciting to think about these students and our faculty getting to work in dance-designated spaces on Grounds, complete with sprung floors and the kinds of facilities that will help all of us reach new creative heights individually and together.”