Fine Arts Campus Opens for Classes in Downtown Columbus

COLUMBUS, Ga. - In an amazing example of public-private partnerships, Columbus State University today opens a new $35 million art and theatre education complex along the river in historic downtown Columbus, Ga.

Columbus States 125,000-square-foot complex is the latest of a string of university projects that have helped revitalize the Columbus downtown area. Most efforts are centered on the universitys music, theatre or art departments, creating a university downtown fine and performing arts campus that may be unequaled, both in terms of facilities and in terms of community impact.

University projects have pumped more than $65 million into downtown Columbus over the last decade, including lofts and apartments for 350 students; continuing education and outreach centers; and academic spaces that are attracting attention.

CSUs Schwob School of Music was the first academic unit to move downtown. It is housed inside the RiverCenter for the Performing Arts, a spectacular facility in the heart of historic Columbus. The 246,000-square-foot complex contains three theatres, one with a custom-built $1 million pipe organ. The RiverCenter was funded through an unprecedented public-private fundraising effort that raised $100 million to also revitalize other key local cultural venues.

Now, new venues are being added to the area. Just down the street from the RiverCenter, faculty and students are settling into riverfront facilities for Columbus State Universitys departments of art and theatre.

The complex includes two theatres, a lighting lab, costume shop, design studio, woodworking spaces, an oversized art gallery and almost a dozen spaces customized for art study, work and display.

It is not unusual for colleges and universities to establish branch campuses for the purpose of better serving the people of their area. And it is not unusual for colleges and universities to emphasize certain academic programs, such as the fine and performing arts, said Columbus State University President Frank Brown. What is unusual is the creation of a new campus, some distance away from the university, which will serve the fine and performing arts exclusively, including the provision of the complete campus experience of on-site housing, student services, facilities which are, by any measure, world class, and a faculty and staff dedicated to providing an enriching, growth experience.

The new art and theatre complex is being paid for entirely with private funds raised during a recently completed capital campaign that raised more than $100 million. Columbus States campaign was the second local campaign in the last decade to top $100 million, and a main focus of both campaigns was the fine and performing arts.

The efforts have paid off for the university, and the city, said Bob Poydasheff, Columbus former mayor.

You have an economic impact though sales taxes, additional apartments being built and rented and that provides revenues to the city, he said. The quality of life is enhanced. The area is completely revitalized, and will be a tourist attraction as well as provide educational opportunities. Its a win-win for the city and Columbus State University.

Many of the apartments being built in the downtown area are being developed by the university.

The first apartments were built in a historic former hotel that served the state theatre of Georgia. Those rooms became spectacular loft apartments and created an instant waiting list. In preparation for two additional academic departments moving downtown, two new buildings were built in the loft-style. Columbus State now has room downtown for 350 students, and has created new street-level spaces for retail development.

Columbus States development downtown has attracted some interest.

The chancellor of the University of South Carolina Upstate, John Stockwell, recently visited and upon his return sent a letter to CSUs Brown, saying I am amazed at the magnitude of the projects accomplished and underway downtown. They far exceeded my expectations, and set a very high bar for any other university in the nation. I have read about engaged universities and partnership universities...most are puffery compared to the very concrete character of what you are accomplishing.