SALT LAKE CITY — Ground will be broken Tuesday on a new $24 million arts and education complex at the University of Utah that will serve as a hub for arts education research and training.
Beverley Taylor Sorenson, a community leader known for her arts advocacy, will be the building's namesake. Sorenson and her late husband, LeVoy, founded the Sorenson Legacy Foundation, which donated $12 million for the new complex.
"The arts are an essential part of a well-rounded, high-quality education and we are thrilled that the University of Utah has acknowledged this and dedicated its resources to establishing this new complex," Sorenson said in a prepared statement. "This will be a place where various organizations, professors, teachers and children can come to celebrate the crucial role the arts play in providing children with the best education."
The foundation's donation for the complex is among the top five largest it has made and the largest donation in support of arts education the university has received.
The complex will be built next to Milton-Bennion Hall, where the College of Education is housed. The interdisciplinary facility will serve as a research center for integrating arts education into traditional core subjects like math, science, history and language arts.
Michael Hardman, dean of the College of Education, said the new building will combine disciplines in ways no other university has.
"The complex is really like no other university facility in the United States," he said.
Hardman said undergraduate and graduate students will be able to work with children as well as researchers to better understand how the arts intersect other subjects. Specialists will also be able to receive hands-on training.
"Our students will be able to work directly with those children on campus," he said. "Their goal is to collaborate to really improve the lives of k-12 students."
Sorenson's influence has been felt in more than 50 elementary schools in the state ever since the state Legislature began funding the Beverley Taylor Sorenson Arts Learning Program, which provides funding for arts specialists. The pilot program received $4 million for its final year, and officials hope it will be funded on an ongoing basis.
The new arts and education complex was designed by EDA Architects and HGA Architects and will be built by Okland Construction. There is not a firm completion date set for the project.
Lisa Cluff works with Sorenson and said that in addition to providing significant funding for the new building, Sorenson has been able to bring many different entities together.
"They have all really partnered," Cluff said. "Her vision has been to see the university and the elementary schools working together."