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Salt Lake City — The Sorenson Legacy Foundation has pledged $12 million to the University of Utah for the construction of an interdisciplinary arts and education complex at its Salt Lake City campus. It is the largest donation in support of fine arts or arts and education in university history.
The new facility will be named the Beverley Taylor Sorenson Arts and Education Complex and will be built at the southern entrance of the campus adjacent to Milton Bennion Hall, east of the David Eccles School of Business. Sorenson is a former elementary school teacher who founded Art Works for Kids, an innovative program that has helped bring music, dance, theater and the visual arts into many Utah elementary schools. She has been a pioneer and long-time champion of making arts education available to Utah's elementary school children.
A principal goal of the new interdisciplinary educational complex will be to research and facilitate teaching methods for integrating arts education into traditional core curriculum subjects such as math, science, history and language arts. Working together with faculty from across the university, educators from the College of Education and the College of Fine Arts will identify best practices for this innovative teaching method, implement a newly designed teacher education program and train arts specialists for placement in Utah's elementary schools.
"This gift represents great vision and great generosity," said University of Utah President Michael K. Young. "Integrating arts into the education of our young students early in their development will have a profound effect on their future learning, not only in the arts, but in all areas, including math, sciences and language."
For the past 13 years, Sorenson has worked to make the arts a fundamental part of every Utah child's elementary school education on the theory that teaching fine arts-such as music, dance and theater-not only fosters social and emotional growth and better develops the "whole individual," but also measurably decreases absenteeism, increases graduation rates and aids a child's comprehension and competency test scores in subjects such as math, science, history and the language arts. Sorenson's Art Works for Kidsprogram, now considered a national model for effective elementary school art education, provides professional development for teachers and art specialists and has helped educate more than 80,000 children.
"Art education is essential to the success of children as individuals and as citizens. But no single group can bring quality art teaching programs to Utah schools; we all have to work together," said Beverley Sorenson. "We are delighted that the University of Utah has dedicated its tremendous resources to establishing this new center to integrate education with the arts and enrich the lives of Utah children."
In addition to classrooms, arts practice areas and performance venues, the new arts and education complex will house the Virginia Tanner Creative Dance Program, six research and outreach centers and two university clinics. These include a new Center for Integrating the Arts into Academic Learning, a new Center for Math and Science Education, the Utah Reading and Literacy Center, the Utah Education Policy Center, the Center for the Advancement of Technology in Education and the Eunice Kennedy Shriver National Center on Community of Caring. Outreach clinics include a satellite program for the highly successful University of Utah Reading Clinic as well as the Education Assessment and School Support Clinic.
"We share the vision of improving the quality of life for Utah's young people by providing each one with the best possible arts education," said Associate Vice President for the Arts and Dean of the College of Fine Arts Raymond Tymas-Jones. "We are honored our efforts will continue Beverley Sorenson's work and carry her name."
"The arts can profoundly change children's lives and is a critical tool for improving student achievement," added Michael Hardman, dean of the College of Education. "What makes this gift so visionary is that faculty from across the university will be working side-by-side, with other institutions of higher education, schools, families, and arts organizations, to explore and promote this phenomenon. It is indeed a privilege for the University of Utah to be able to carry on the amazing legacy of Beverley Sorenson and the Sorenson family."
The Beverley Taylor Sorenson Arts and Education Complex is scheduled to open in 2011 at an estimated total cost of $30 million. For more information on the new facility and the arts and education initiative, please visit http://www.artsed.utah.edu/.