Nittany Performing Arts Centre
Case for Support 

When the arts thrive, communities thrive

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What makes a community a great place to live?  There are the basics:  safety, clean air and water, healthcare, jobs, decent housing.  But among the fundamentals defining an attractive, vibrant community are opportunities for people to connect, to learn and develop skills throughout their lifetimes and to express themselves creatively. Many people find these qualities in the arts.

Community-based arts organizations stand proudly alongside Centre County’s larger institutions in presenting the performing arts.  They make up a year-round community of professional and amateur performing artists welcoming people of all ages to music, dance and theatre. Together they “allow residents and visitors to experience a richness in the arts and culture that is only matched in larger urban areas.”  (From the Borough of State College’s 2009 Strategic Plan.)

After decades of contribution, these organizations are now working together to meet a pressing need.  They seek to create a mid-size arts space with amenities now missing from the community.  Such a venue represents a commitment to building new audiences, presenting new artistic challenges and programs and offering new levels of service.

The Nittany Performing Arts Centre (NPAC) has been established to create a community performing arts center, easily accessible for audiences in Centre County with an attractive atmosphere and optimal acoustical properties.  This project would support, and ideally be a central part of, State College’s goal to create a Cultural District and strengthen the cultural sector as a key asset for future community development.

NPAC Progress to Date

Incorporated as a 501c3 in September, 2017, NPAC is being spearheaded by more than a dozen arts organizations whose ability to serve their audiences and the community is currently inhibited by the lack of adequate performing and rehearsal space.  The Nittany Valley Symphony, State College Choral Society and Pennsylvania Chamber Orchestra are the principal partners in this venture, joining with other music, dance and theater companies – such as State College Municipal Band, Nittany Ballet, FUSE Productions, State College Community Theater who have expressed interest in participating.

The Board of NPAC and Executive Director Doug Meyer have begun to define the space and performance requirements.  Similar projects around the country have been consulted. The team of professional planners that will be needed for all aspects of the project are largely identified. Initial discussions are underway with local and county government, planners and community leaders regarding planning, potential sites and partnership opportunities. An initial list of prospective supporters has been identified and they have begun to contribute financially towards early planning and organization. 

Working from a Stable Base

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All the groups participating share similar missions focused on presenting high caliber music, dance and theater performances to inspire and enrich the community.  Professional and amateur performers are involved.  The groups continue to develop the skills and confidence of the performers through regular rehearsals, Master Classes, etc.  To develop the audiences and of the future, these groups offer outreach and education programs – many with local schools and school children.  They collaborate with each other as well as other community groups.  They have commissioned new work which has been performed outside of the area.

These are largely volunteer driven organizations, but the sustained commitment of the people involved is exemplified by the groups’ longevity:  the Choral Society, Chamber Orchestra and the Symphony alone have been around for a combined 152 years.  Hundreds of volunteers and nearly 400 donors support their work.  Donor-designated funds have been established for long-term support. These donors include some of the community’s most generous philanthropists.

An Urgent Need

Despite the success, achievement and stability painted in this picture, the Centre County community performing arts groups have a major challenge.  They have no dedicated place to prepare, rehearse and perform. Each year considerable time and expense goes into cobbling together performance venues – time that could instead be spent developing programs and educational outreach and engaging the community.  

The creation of NPAC would offer another significant benefit to regional audiences.  Its medium size and professional amenities would fill a performance void and attract artists and entertainments that otherwise might bypass State College.  An orchestra pit, dressing rooms and a stage built to accommodate larger productions would now be available to the range of performing groups.

In the words of Daryl Durran, Professor at the Penn State School of Music:  “While there are performing spaces in the public schools, Penn State and area churches, all these locations are difficult for community groups to use due to scheduling conflicts, problematic physical layouts, cost and poor acoustics for both the performers and the audience.  The proposed Nittany Performing Arts Centre has the potential to eliminate virtually all of these problems.”

Phase I – Building a Firm Foundation

Preliminary estimates for planning and construction of the proposed 750-seat venue range from $10-15 million.  NPAC is aware that building and operating this critically needed facility will have long-term impact and implications for the partners and the community.  It is committed to responsible planning by experienced professionals to create the most functional, exciting and sustainable facility possible.

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In the next two years, NPAC will focus on raising the $1-$2 million needed to reach the next milestones in the project.  Funds in Phase I would support architectural planning, site selection, business planning, market research, staffing and fundraising support.  NPAC has already enlisted a Design Team composed of nationally recognized experts Wilson Butler Architects; theater consultants Fisher Dachs Associates, and Vermeulens Cost Consultants as well as fundraising consultants Schultz & Williams.

NPAC is now looking for early investors to support the essential planning and organizational work that will refine the current vision and create the foundation for a successful Nittany Performing Arts Centre.  This early support will be recognized as a critical component of the overall campaign effort, with future naming opportunities available as appropriate.  While the NPAC Board includes individuals who are affiliated with Penn State University, there is no expectation that the University will contribute to this project.

Conclusion

The vision for the Nittany Performing Arts Centre is an ambitious one—but one that promises to deliver great benefits to State College and Centre County.  It will

  • Contribute to the cultural and economic vitality of State College by drawing patrons and guests to the Borough

  • Build new audiences for the arts by providing an attractive, accessible and modern venue

  • Raise the visibility and prestige of the resident companies and other performance ensembles

  • Build new revenue streams for the resident companies through facility rentals and increased ticket income

  • Strengthen arts education by encouraging artistic collaboration and offering space for students and teachers.