The Schaefer Center: A Premier Venue

  • Technical Director Scott Haynes ’05 and Sarah Heustess, director of sales & patron relations at the Schaefer Center

The curtain rose in mid-July on the Schaefer Center for the Performing Arts, dark for the past year for major renovations.

The transformation of Farthing Auditorium into the Schaefer Center for the Performing Arts was funded privately through a $7 million gift from Bonnie and Jamie Schaefer, patrons whose corporate sponsorship by Westglow Resort and Spa and Rowland’s Restaurant has enabled An Appalachian Summer Festival to enhance the quality and diversity of its music programming since 2007.

The improvements made possible by the Schaefers’ gift address issues of safety, accessibility, and enhancement of the performance experience for audiences attending events in the venue.  A new wing connected to the lobby will house an elevator to the balcony level, additional restrooms, office space and a concessions area. A sloped auditorium floor improves sightlines and visibility of the stage from all seating areas on the orchestra level. Other improvements include a new acoustical and sound system, a mechanized orchestra pit and a variety of cosmetic upgrades.

“Next year’s schedule is filling up quickly, and we have just a few open dates available,” reported Scott Haynes, director of technical and production services for the Office of Arts and Cultural Programs, which manages the venue.

Programming for the inaugural year includes world-class artists appearing as part of An Appalachian Summer Festival and the Performing Arts Series; the Catherine J. Smith Gallery’s dynamic exhibitions program; APPS concerts and the Banff Film Festival; performances by the Hayes School of Music and the Department of Theatre and Dance and community events such as Shooting Stars and Studio K’s “Nutcracker.”

Students work backstage and in the box office.  “We serve as a ‘learning lab’ for students,” said Sarah Heustess, director of sales and patron relations. “The professional experience they gain in our venue builds skills that transfer to a variety of other career pursuits.”

When the gift to the university was announced, Jamie Schaefer noted: “The National Endowment for the Arts has long inspired us with the proclamation that ‘a great nation deserves great art.’  Perhaps a great university is equally deserving – of great art, and a place where it can truly shine.”