Since its inception in 1927, The University of Texas-Pan American has been the cultural center of South Texas. From opera companies to symphonies to individual performances by some of the best known artists in the world, the University and its auditoriums have been the main performance stages in the region. With the construction of the UTPA Fine Arts Complex and the Fine Arts Auditorium more than 40 years ago, the University became an even more important resource for students, performers and the community.
In 1970, the hot spots for entertainment in Edinburg were the Park Bowl, located across from the Echo Hotel, and the Citrus, Century and Capri movie theaters, making the city the “movie capital of the Valley.” Adding to the entertainment lineup and growth of the area was the addition of the Fine Arts Auditorium, which served as the permanent home for drama, music, speech and art on the Pan American College campus.
Completed in February 1970 under the leadership of President Ralph Schilling, the Auditorium quickly became a significant part of the campus landscape, which at the time was booming with rapid growth after its admission to the state system, and subsequent transition from college to university status. In 1970, the Fine Arts Center, which included the Auditorium and Fine Arts Buildings B and C, was one of the largest buildings on campus. Dr. John D. Anderson, chair of the Department of Music at the time, was instrumental in the planning of the Auditorium and the design of Buildings B and C.
Throughout the years, the Fine Arts Auditorium has served as the cultural center and the heart of the community, as well as a symbol of the importance of the arts in the Rio Grande Valley. For 42 years, UT Pan American’s Fine Arts Auditorium has hosted numerous performances by UTPA faculty, student music competitions, theater productions, and the Valley Symphony Orchestra. It also hosted famous musicians such as pianist Jorge Bolet, the U.S. Army Band, the Mariachi Vargas de Tecalitlán, numerous community dance companies, and high school choirs/bands/orchestras. There were also visits by notable public figures such as former U.S. Presidents Bill Clinton and George H.W. Bush, author Maya Angelou, Michael Dell, Bob Woodward, Dan Rather, Mikhail Gorbachev, Robert F. Kennedy Jr., and many others.
Opening in Fall 2014, the University of Texas-Pan American Academic and Performing Arts Center is a 14,500 square-foot facility currently under construction. At completion, the center will be the platform for the arts in South Texas. It will continue The University’s initiative started in 1927 and be the cultural center in the region.
The Academic and Performing Arts Center will replace the UTPA’s Fine Arts Complex and Fine Arts Auditorium to offer students, faculty, performers, and the community a state-of-the-art venue. It will also pursue the main vocation of the previous sites, which was to receive outstanding artists, and speakers, serve as the cultural center, and stand as a symbol of the importance of the arts in the Rio Grande Valley.
On November 2012, The UTPA’s Fine Arts Auditorium brought down the curtain on 42 years of numerous performances by UTPA faculty, student music competitions, theater productions, and the Valley Symphony Orchestra. It also staged famous musicians such as pianist Jorge Bolet, the U.S. Army Band, the Mariachi Vargas de Tecalitlán, numerous community dance companies, and high school choirs/bands/orchestras. Notable public figures like former U.S. Presidents Bill Clinton and George H.W. Bush, author Maya Angelou, Michael Dell, Bob Woodward, Dan Rather, Mikhail Gorbachev, Robert F. Kennedy Jr., also left their footprints at the Auditorium.
In 1970 The Universtiy of Texas-Pan American started with an enrollment of 7,000 students. It is today, providing quality education to more than 19,000 students, a number that keeps increasing every year.
In order to meet its growing needs and give to the arts their due recognition, the University started the $42.7 million construction of a brand new Academic and Performing Arts Center in November 2012. PageSoutherlandPage, the architecture and engineering firm from Austin, Texas is managing the project.
With the new Academic and Performing Arts Center, the Fine Arts programs will be able to accommodate 453 music and dance majors, up from the current enrollment of 320. The center will be replacing the Fine Arts Auditorium that served for four and a half decades as the main performance stage for the arts in Rio Grande Valley.
As part of the project, existing Fine Arts Music Buildings B and C are undergoing renovations. The full interior of Building C is being demolished and reconstructed, and the second floor of Building B is being renovated. Both buildings will be modernized and have safety and accessibility upgrades.
The center, which is expected to be close to completion in the Fall 2014 will add a total of nearly 14,500 square feet of space for UTPA's Fine Arts programs. This expansion will allow the University to increase its music and dance majors’ enrollment by 41.5%.