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Wharton Center to expand

Monday, October 22, 2007

On the heels of a successful Campaign for MSU, President Lou Anna K. Simon announced that Wharton Center for Performing Arts is beginning the public phase of a capital campaign to expand the center. The 24,000-square-foot expansion is necessary to accommodate increased demand for arts in education programs and distance learning, backstage amenities for touring productions and flexible space for on-site functions.

The announcement was made Oct. 14 at a celebratory dinner commemorating Wharton Center’s first 25 years.

“The Wharton Center is an integral part of Michigan State University and a cultural beacon for the entire state,” Simon said. “Celebrating its 25th anniversary and launching the capital campaign for the future of the Center highlights MSU’s Year of Arts of Culture initiative. The Wharton Center has served as a leading resource for renowned arts entertainment and education programs, contributing to the creative and economic vitality of this region.”

The proposed space will consist of a glass and brick, four-story structure that will be integrated into the front facade of the current building to create a dramatic new face to the facility. The expansion will include an enlarged front lobby, box office and gift shop; two additional education/reception areas on the second floor; consolidated staff offices on the third level; and new crew rooms, additional restrooms, and dressing rooms – all necessary to maintain Wharton Center as a state-of-the-art facility.

“The building renovation will create a beautiful new facade and create opportunities to develop statewide arts education programs, which are at the heart of Wharton Center’s mission,” Provost Kim Wilcox said. “This project will strategically prepare Wharton Center for its next 25 years.”

Once authorization to plan was received for the $11 million project, Wharton Center began the silent phase of a capital campaign over the summer. Community partners and friends of Wharton Center, both corporate and individual were quick to contribute. Three major pledges of $500,000 each from Jackson National Life Insurance Company, the Christman Company and Arlene and Larry Sierra have already been identified, along with numerous smaller gifts.

“We have enjoyed our experiences at Wharton in every dimension, particularly for our family,” said Larry Sierra. “Our children were engaged in music and music appreciation activities early on, and continue those interests today. We feel very strongly about the importance of giving, and in this case in particular, giving back to a university that has been instrumental in the success of our careers, our children's education and their success.”

Gifts can be made in the form of cash or a pledge payable over five years. Deferred gifts through estate planning will also help build Wharton Center’s endowment funds. For more information, contact Wharton Center’s development office at (517) 353-4640.

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