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Jason Olson, Deseret Morning News
The Covey Center's performance hall. The center was created to showcase performing and visual arts.

PROVO — The transformation of a city library into a center for the arts is so complete only the imagination can tell where bookcases once stood, where children were entertained in a reading pit and where pictures once hung in an art gallery.

Even the interior design came together piece by piece, said Kathryn Allen, community outreach program coordinator and art gallery director.

"My responsibility was to make the building work," she said.

The Covey Center for the Arts, named for Sandra Covey, wife of motivational speaker, author and businessman Stephen R. Covey, was from the outset to become an elegant expression for the display of not only the performing arts — with its ample stage, orchestra pit, 75-foot-high fly tower and dance studio — but also for the visual arts.

As the building transformed in an $8.5 million remodeling, plans were changed as new ideas came into focus, Allen said. A solid wall separating the administration offices and boardroom on the upper floor became glass as Allen and others on the Provo Arts Council decided to let in more natural light.

Broad windows in each of the offices bring in light that passes through transom windows to brighten the work area and much of the upper floor.

"The idea was to visually open up the space," Allen said.

Can lights also brighten the work area in the administration offices, but fluorescent lights are above every matching desk in the offices per city code. Because the expansive windows look out onto snow-covered trees in the winter and cherry blossoms in the spring, Allen says she rarely uses them.

Other offices are for Danae Friel, marketing; Hayley Roggia, scheduling; and Paul Deurden, general manager.

Even the boardroom has windows to light the space.

"We feel it's the nicest boardroom in the city offices," Allen said.

Elegance continues into the kitchen and public restrooms, where cherry wood kitchen cabinets and hardwood floors soften the design. In lavatories, charcoal tile covers the wall 7 feet up, while transom windows under a 10-foot ceiling bring in Mount Timpanogos on a clear day. The classic tile floor is reminiscent of New York restrooms.

"The community expected a classy center for the arts," Allen said.

Among the many donations that went into the center is a large chandelier that hangs over the grand entry. Douglas and Marion Smoot donated $32,000 to purchase the fixture. It's suspended on a heavy, brushed chain with a winch hidden above to raise and lower it for cleaning and to replace the bulbs.

A curved staircase ascending to the second level with glass and polished handrail encircles the chandelier from below.

The first architectural renderings for the front of the facility were "extremely unattractive," Allen said. "They didn't live up to the standard for a center for the arts."

So when architect Vern Letham of VCBO Architects of Salt Lake City was on a business trip to Chicago, he photographed several entrances of theaters in that city. The building committee pored over those pictures and brought together elements that created the present facade.

Broad, red carpeted areas outside the arts center theater feature indirect lighting and track lighting.

The theater, designed with every seat in the house having a clear view, required that the city raze the motel to the west to build out the structure.

The secured gallery on the main level is for art exhibitions. Previously, exhibitions were held in borrowed space.

Stained glass windows by Provo artists David and Neanne Gomm "are the icing on the cake," Allen said.

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