WIU opens new performing arts center

The project has been in the works since the 1970s and just broke ground on Friday.

MACOMB, Ill. — A group of Western Illinois University programs are enjoying new life after years of enrollment and financial challenges.

WIU opened its long-awaited new performing arts center on Friday, October 7, and Illinois state and school leaders gathered at its Macomb campus for the ceremony.

“We’ve waited a long time for this building,” said WIU College of Fine Arts and Communication Dean Billy Clow.

“As we waited and worked through delays and processes, we made sure to stay up to date with building technology, and we made sure to keep pace with the architecture,” Clow said. “It gives them facilities to work with so the talent they have matches the level of facilities we can provide them,” Clow said.

The 100,000 square foot building will feature a state-of-the-art facility, expand class spacing and allow students to learn in one location. It will also feature a 900-seat proscenium theater that will provide state-of-the-art performance space for music, theater and dance productions, as well as regional and national touring shows.

“It will definitely increase the visibility of our arts program,” said WIU President Guiyou Huang. “All of these things together will make the facility great and well used by faculty and staff.”

This comes at a time when the school is trying to reverse recent enrollment difficulties.

“A brand new facility like this that will be as enjoyable as it will attract more people,” said student Jacob Behm.

“Some of the facilities will be like modern classrooms, theater facilities and music for the band,” student Jaekwon Watkins said.

Officials said the project, which had been underway since the 1970s, had been delayed for years due to funding and state issues.

The state is covering most of the project costs of more than $100 million. Illinois Governor JB Pritzker announced public funding of $119 million at the event.

Construction began in September 2022 and is expected to be completed in fall 2024.

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