Performing arts at the University of Manitoba will be propped up thanks to two of its alumni.
On Sept. 20, Gail Asper and Michael Paterson donated $2 million to the Taché Arts Project, part of the U of M’s Front and Centre fundraising campaign.
"We have to support our artists. We need them," Asper said. "We can’t imagine how bleak the world would be without the storytellers, without musicians, so providing a beautiful space for the arts shows our respect for the arts."
The project supports the revisioning of Taché Hall as a multidisciplinary home for art, music and theatre. The donation by Asper and Paterson will help students pursue education in all aspects of live theatre production, from scriptwriting, to performing, to staging, to carpentry, costuming and more.
"We are avid devourers of live theatre, film, music," Asper said. "(And) here was this incredible opportunity for us to contribute to the theatre program that has enriched our community."
The U of M has also renamed a wing of Taché Hall in honour of the donation.
The university has named the entirety of the theatre facilities, encompassing the new John J. Conklin Theatre and costume, carpentry and set design workshops, as the Gail Asper Performing Arts Hall.
"This is in fact a proud day for the university and it’s a wonderful, exciting time for faculty and students in the theatre program," U of M president and vice-chancellor David Barnard said. "Thanks to the vision and generosity of two alumni who while studying here fell in love with each other and the performing arts, we now have this incredible facility to bring together a diverse group of theatre-loving students."
To mark the occasion, student actors performed a scene from the university’s production of Doubtful House, written by the award-winning Ian Ross. The production was the first to be staged in the new theatre this past March.
Asper, who is a large supporter of the arts community in Winnipeg, was also a student of the university in the early 1980s and participated in the theatre program, performing in a number of productions in the former Blackhole Theatre.
"It’s pretty thrilling for us to be on the stage of Winnipeg’s newest, beautiful performing arts centre… it’s a gorgeous space and it’s weird to be here and thinking of those days back in Blackhole Theatre. I’m definitely envious of this generation of theatre students," Asper said.
"I’m overjoyed that they now have access to a first-rate learning experience and I hope this facility will spark a lifelong love for theatre that lasts many generations."