VPAC scheduled for 2011 debut

Jaclyn Rymer

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CSUN received $165,000 in federal funding for construction of the Valley Performing Arts Center.  Once completed, the Valley Performing Arts Center at CSUN will serve as the premier cultural destination for thousands of residents throughout the San Fernando Valley, as well as Los Angeles and Ventura Counties. Photo Credit: Caitlin McCarrick / Staff Photographer

CSUN received $165,000 in federal funding for construction of the Valley Performing Arts Center. Once completed, the Valley Performing Arts Center at CSUN will serve as the premier cultural destination for thousands of residents throughout the San Fernando Valley, as well as Los Angeles and Ventura Counties. Photo Credit: Caitlin McCarrick / Staff Photographer

When driving down Nordhoff Street and passing the CSUN campus, even if blinking, it’s hard to miss the construction that has been taking place since last year.

For people who have not yet seen or heard, this 160,000 square foot metal structure is transforming into what will be known as the Valley Performing Arts Center (VPAC). The VPAC will be the first large-scale venue to provide a unique cultural experience for residents of the San Fernando Valley and surrounding areas.

“The building will be completed by August 2010,” said Gailya Brown, the senior director of the Valley Performing Arts Center Campaign. The official opening, however, is set for Jan. 29, 2011.

Construction for a structure this large of a scale does not come cheap. The total cost of the VPAC is $125 million dollars and with the recent $165,000 of federal funding secured by Congressman and CSUN alumnus Brad Sherman, the funding of the center will eventually reach the amount necessary to pay the entire cost of the VPAC.

“The Valley Performing Arts Center at CSUN will serve as a world-class venue for student and professional theatrical and musical productions. This new venue will allow Valley residents to enjoy a variety of theater performances right in the heart of the San Fernando Valley, enhancing the cultural and intellectual spirit of the community,” said Sherman in a Nov. 3 press release.

The money secured by Congressman Sherman from the federal government was a grant initially intended to go toward a performing arts center located in the valley, but the plans for that project could not be moved forward so the money was given to CSUN to be used for the construction of the VPAC right on campus, Brown said.

The VPAC is a public-private partnership meaning a part of the money for the center is coming from taxpayers, but the other part is being donated by private sources. Brown said the campaign is talking to individuals, major companies, corporations and organizations that have a significant presence to pursue the donations and gifts needed to reach the campaign-funding goal of $50 million. Once some of the pending donations are accepted, Brown said the campaign will have $28 million remaining to raise.

The VPAC will be the new home for ArtsNorthridge and KCSN-FM radio, boasting an acoustically tunable main performance hall including 1,700 seats, making it an ideal place to attend symphonies, dance, opera and other theater performances. There will also be a 178-seat black box theater for the smaller types of productions, indoor and outdoor public and entertainment areas as well as a lecture hall.

The planning and construction of the building has been carefully crafted from the inside out. The designers of the structure, HGA Architects and Engineers, have created an environmentally conscious plan that fuels the building via the hydrogen fuel cell satellite plant on campus.

CSUN students Frank Nava, 19, a biology major and psychology major Elizabeth Lopez believe that the VPAC will benefit people of the community along with other students in providing a better environment to learn about the performing arts as well as watch live entertainment.

“I think it will give students a chance to get involved with more activities,” Lopez, 18, said.

Brown said in about three or four months prior to the official opening of the VPAC, there will be what she referred to as a “soft opening” in which the VPAC will seat small audiences for free as a “trial-run” to make sure all of the equipment is functioning properly, the acoustics are tuned, the building is sound and all systems are ready for the public.

“This project is going to bring the creative arts to the region in a way that no other facility currently makes available,” said President Jolene Koester in a video posted on the VPAC Web page.

More information about the VPAC, including floor plans and funding to-date, can be found online at http://www.csun.edu/imagine/.