Texas Tech University Breaks Ground on School of Theatre & Dance Complex

Turning over a single shovel full of dirt, Texas Tech University System Chancellor Robert Duncan delivered on his vision to invest in the arts at Texas Tech University.

Surrounded by faculty, students, donors and members of the Lubbock arts community, Duncan signaled the official start of construction for the new School of Theatre & Dance Complex during a groundbreaking on Aug. 11. The two-phase project will expand and renovate the Charles E. Maedgen Jr. Theatre building with the first upgrades to the facility in more than 50 years.

The project was made possible last fall by a donation from two of Texas Tech University System’s most ardent supporters, Lubbock philanthropists J.T. and Margaret Talkington.

“Through their lives and philanthropy, J.T. and Margaret Talkington made Texas Tech and Lubbock a better community for all,” said Duncan. “These visionaries understood the potential of the arts to change lives, and this facility will continue the evolution of Texas Tech and Lubbock as an arts destination with global impact.

“Through their lives and philanthropy, J.T. and Margaret Talkington made Texas Tech and Lubbock a better community for all.”

Robert L. DuncanChancellor
Texas Tech University System

The Talkington’s $10 million gift is the largest donation in the history of the J.T. & Margaret Talkington College of Visual & Performing Arts.

“Because of the generous legacy of J.T. and Margaret Talkington, our theatre and dance students and faculty will have access to state-of-the-art technology and updated rehearsal and performance spaces,” said Texas Tech University President Lawrence Schovanec. “The quality of this facility will enhance the ability of our students and faculty to deliver the excellent productions and performances for which they are already so well-known.”

Building on a thriving university arts culture

The arts are thriving at Texas Tech, where the J.T. & Margaret Talkington College of Visual & Performing Arts boasts the honor of being the only public institution in Texas that is nationally accredited in all four programs of music, theatre, dance, and art and design.

With alumni that include internationally recognized artists, educators and performers, graduates of the School of Theatre & Dance include top-billed names such as “Greater Tuna” co-creator and star Jaston Williams and 15-time Broadway actress Jennifer Smith. Current students also bring international recognition to their alma mater, performing last year at the world-renowned Tennessee Williams Theatre Festival — the first time a university had ever been invited to perform at the annual event.

For Mark Charney, director of the School of Theatre & Dance, an investment in best-in-class facilities brings with it the potential to inspire great art from his students, faculty and staff.

“When I first took over the School of Theatre & Dance in 2012, I recognized, like so many schools in the country, that one of our greatest opportunities was in regards to facilities,” he said.

During the expansion, teaching and research spaces will be added to address the lack of dedicated facilities in the existing building. New rehearsal rooms will allow the school to prepare and research new theatrical works for production without tying up either of the performance stages. A larger scene shop and paint lab will enable the school to prepare full-scale sets in the workshop.

New spaces will also reunite design programs currently housed at separate locations across campus. A new CAD Lab will provide access to cutting-edge design and fabrication equipment, and a new costume shop will add ample space for wardrobe construction and new facilities to dye textiles.

Renovations to the MainStage Theatre will improve technical capabilities and front-of-house amenities. A new black box Laboratory Theatre will include a dedicated lighting grid, improved technical capacity and moveable seating that will allow performances to be staged in varied configurations.

Global vision, local impact

“World-class universities recognize the role of the arts in raising the visibility of the institution and in breaking new ground in creativity, community engagement and scholarship,” said Noel Zahler, dean of the J.T. & Margaret Talkington College of Visual & Performing Arts. “A world-class institution must provide world-class facilities for its arts programs. Chancellor Duncan’s big, bold initiative in the arts is responsible for the new 74,500-square-foot theatre and dance complex, and bold ideas are what make Texas Tech world-class.”

“World-class universities recognize the role of the arts in raising the visibility of the institution…”

Noel ZahlerDean, J.T. & Margaret Talkington College of Visual & Performing Arts
Texas Tech University

As business and civic leaders, the Talkington’s supported Lubbock’s development as an arts center for the entire West Texas region. At Texas Tech University, their legacy of philanthropy funded student scholarships and graduate fellowships in the arts; installed internationally-recognized public art on campus; renovated the Grand Holtkamp Organ; donated works from their personal art collection to the Museum of Texas Tech University; and supported arts initiatives that impacted the Lubbock community.

“We applaud the vision of J.T. and Margaret, who championed this region as a global leader in the arts,” said Lisa D. Calvert, Texas Tech University System vice chancellor for Institutional Advancement. “We cherish the importance they placed on making the arts accessible to all, and we continue to see the impact of their lives through philanthropy.”

With more than 800 performances and exhibits each year and more than 600 hours spent volunteering in the community, the J.T. & Margaret Talkington College of Visual & Performing Arts is a leading source of quality arts education and entertainment for the entire Lubbock community. On its own, the School of Theatre & Dance welcomes more than 3,400 patrons each year, and the school encourages faculty involvement and fosters civic commitment in its graduates by requiring community engagement as part of all theatre and dance degree programs.

“We are intent on making art that directly affects and betters the community,” Charney said. “This new facility will be a gathering place for all the arts and also for our partners like Guadalupe-Parkway Sommerville Centers, the Burkhart Center [for Autism Education & Research] and the East Lubbock Promise Neighborhood Grant.”

The global aspirations of the School of Theatre & Dance are evident in Texas Tech’s ambitions for the new facility. But for those who remember J.T. and Margaret Talkington, the couple’s lasting impact on the Lubbock arts community may be the most significant impact.

Charney’s commitment to honor that legacy couldn’t be clearer.

“Our School of Theatre & Dance is intent on making Lubbock its campus.”

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