When speaking to faculty, staff or students involved in the UCF School of Performing Arts, they will all say how great the program is, how much it has been growing and how strong it is. Despite this, all the shows UCF does happen in spaces that either weren’t designed for performing arts or at nearby high schools.
Many of the performing arts shows that take place on campus are in lecture halls, such as in the Nicholson School of Communication building, the Visual Arts building and a former chemistry lecture hall that has been converted into a space for performing arts events.
There is no location on campus large enough to fit a performance by the UCF orchestra, according to David Schreier, an assistant band director. Orchestra shows are forced to take place off campus at local high schools, which can be as far as 45 minutes away from campus.
“It would mean a lot if there was a performing arts center on campus,” said Schreier. “It’s a whole lot easier to build an audience when there is one place that you keep going to.”
An audience and following has already been built, according to Heather Gibson, the director of marketing and communications for the College of Arts and Humanities. Shows at UCF consistently sell out both on and off campus, Gibson said.
“It’s a capacity need,” Gibson said. “We regularly sell out events on campus. The black box theater is sold out for almost every show and there are people who are unable to attend shows because of it.”
The missing performing arts center also makes it difficult to bring in new staff and students to UCF, said Tina Fleming, the marketing director for the School of Performing Arts.
“It’s essential to gain new faculty and students; most people don’t want to teach or learn at a place that doesn’t have the proper facilities,” she said. “They would want to come to a school that prioritizes music and the arts.”
By not having the facilities to motivate these new people to come to UCF, the school relies on the quality of their program to entice newcomers, according to Schreier.
“We sell everything else when recruiting,” said Schreier. “We provide a quality education, and that’s what we use to recruit. Not everything is about the facility -- the facility is just the piece that’s missing.”
With audience interest and a quality education behind the School of Performing Arts, the only factor that seems to be holding the project back is funding, according to Schreier.
After the Music and Theatre buildings were completed in 2011, the performing arts center was supposed to immediately follow in what is currently the parking lot in front of the two buildings, according to Fleming.
Building this facility is the No. 1 priority on UCF’s building list, according to Schreier. It has been in the past as well, but Schreier says it seems other projects, like the downtown campus, have jumped ahead.
Neither UCF Facilities Planning and Construction nor UCF's News and Information replied when asked to comment.
A group of students hopes to gain the momentum that once existed for the performing arts center. Senior Alex Storer and others are organizing to speak with the Student Government Association on the first senate meeting of next semester to raise awareness and gain funding for the project.
When each UCF student pays tuition, a small portion is set aside for special projects, according to Storer. He and the group of students speaking to SGA are hoping to tap into that special fund and put it toward building a new performing arts center.
“This desire to get these facilities isn’t about me. It’s about my love for the arts and the importance of the arts in an educational institution and community," Storer said. "That’s a principle I’ll stand up for any time, regardless of whether or not it affects me personally. Plus, I can always come back to see the shows and concerts.”