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Bobcat Magazine | October 18, 2017

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Click: Breathtaking photos of Texas State’s new Performing Arts Center

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Members of the Merge Dance Company, an ensemble of the university’s Theatre and Dance department, break in the stage at the Patti Strickel Harrison Theatre in the Texas State University’s Performing Arts Center prior to a two-day celebration in February of the a $83.2 million complex’s opening. PHOTO by CHANDLER PRUDE, © 2014 TEXAS STATE UNIVERSITY


PHOTOS by CHANDLER PRUDE | ESSAY by BRAD ROLLINS

Not long after Texas State University’s gleaming new Performing Arts Center started going up, a wall between campus and city came down.

In February 2005, about six months after arriving in San Marcos, I wrote a story about the university’s grand plans for a theater, dance and music venue “situated between campus and downtown as a physical link with the city they share.”

“We’re looking at placing the performing arts center where it can be utilized by the entire San Marcos community. We think it will improve the connection between the university and the city,” Nancy Nusbaum, then an assistant vice president for finance and support services, said in the article.

At the time, the boundary between the lower reaches of campus and the upper reaches of downtown took the form of an unwelcoming reddish brick wall running alongside University Drive.

The bricks that composed the wall were staggered such that open air created a gap where every second or third brick would typically go. I learned later through the

omniscient internet that the technique is called Brasilian bonding. I always imagined some insightful and inventive bricklayer designing a wall full of holes so that town and gown could get an unobstructed view of the other — from their respective sides of a masonry shield.

I exaggerate, of course. The barrier was more psychological than physical. The wall couldn’t have been more than four or five feet tall and there was not a single gate keeping anyone in or out. Its apparent uselessness as a wall made it seem even worse to me. It was an intentional and blunt symbol of univercity strain and separation.

As it turns out, it took more than six years after I wrote that initial article before funding came through for the $83.2 million performing arts center and the parking garage next door.

When workers geared up to begin construction on the in fall 2011, I resolved to

keep an eye on their progress and to be present when the bricks were pushed over into heaps smoldering with concrete dust. Then I forgot about it for a few days or weeks and missed my chance; one day, I noticed the wall was gone, replaced with a vast sidewalk.

When the Texas State Performing Arts Center opened in February with two days of performances and fanfare, the sad little wall was long gone. In its place, an imposing landmark winks at the limitless possibilities if Texas State, San Marcos and Hays County keep trying at the difficult tasks of wide-ranging cooperation and collaboration.

On one front, at least, an opening has replaced an obstacle.



Since 2008, CHANDLER PRUDE has documented Texas State’s dramatic physical transformation as the university’s official photographer.

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The performing arts center sits on University Drive between North Edward Gary and Moon streets, at the a nexus of Texas State’s campus and San Marcos’ Central Business District. The building’s inviting archways and a public plazas replace the aging, gray Falls Hall and a brick wall that used to mark the boundary between campus and city, both of which were demolished to make way for one of the largest single projects in the implementation of the university’s ongoing campus master plan. PHOTO by CHANDLER PRUDE, © 2014 TEXAS STATE UNIVERSITY

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The 397-seat theater is named for Dr. Patti Strickel Harrison, a Wimberley philanthropist who donated $8 million to helped fund construction of the performing arts center. PHOTO by CHANDLER PRUDE, © 2014 TEXAS STATE UNIVERSITY

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A grand piano dominates the stage of the 312-seat recital hall in the new Texas State performing arts center. Built in a traditional shoe-box shape, the recital hall features adjustable acoustic elements in the forms of drapes and reflectors. The university’s campus master plan envisions a new $56.7 million music building to near the performing arts center where the Sterry residence hall now stands; the music building has been put on hold indefinitely until funding can be found, most likely in the form of tuition revenue bonds that must be authorized by the Legislature. PHOTO by CHANDLER PRUDE, © 2014 TEXAS STATE UNIVERSITY

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As part of a sampling of a sampling of performances at the building’s grand opening on March 2, the Merge Dance Company performs “Horizons,” an act composed by Peter Louis van Dijk, the university’s composer-in-residence during the spring 2012 semester. Under the direction of Ana Baer and Michelle Nance, Merge has performed at venues in Boulder, Colo.; Los Angeles; and New York as well as in cities across Texas. PHOTO by CHANDLER PRUDE, © 2014 TEXAS STATE UNIVERSITY

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Merge Dance Company. PHOTO by CHANDLER PRUDE, © 2014 TEXAS STATE UNIVERSITY

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Merge Dance Company. PHOTO by CHANDLER PRUDE, © 2014 TEXAS STATE UNIVERSITY

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The university’s musical theatre troupe performs the finale to Act 1 of “Anything Goes” by Cole Porter. Directed by Kaitlin Hopkins, the performance part of a four-act grand opening production for the new performing arts center, which featured students from the musical theater, dance, opera and chorale programs. PHOTO by CHANDLER PRUDE, © 2014 TEXAS STATE UNIVERSITY

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Vocalists from a composite of Texas State ensembles — the University Singers, the Women’s and Men’s Choirs and the Texas State Chorale — performed the finale from “Candide” by Leonard Bernstein at the grand opening of Texas State’s Performing Arts Center on March 2. Dr. Sam Mungo directed the combined performances from the four groups. PHOTO by CHANDLER PRUDE, © 2014 TEXAS STATE UNIVERSITY

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PHOTO by CHANDLER PRUDE, © 2014 TEXAS STATE UNIVERSITY

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Jordan Van severe, playing Osmin, co-starred with Erin English as Cunegonde in the opera program’s staging of a scene from “Die Entfuhrung aus dem Serail” (The Abduction from the Seraglio) by Mozart at the Texas State Performing Arts Center on March 2. PHOTO by CHANDLER PRUDE, © 2014 TEXAS STATE UNIVERSITY

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Designed by Houston-based Morris Architects, the 69,122-square-foot Texas State Performing Arts Center is among the largest single capital improvement projects completed at Texas State University in the last decade. The contractor was Austin-based Hunt Construction Group. PHOTO by CHANDLER PRUDE, © 2014 TEXAS STATE UNIVERSITY


The photographs were originally published in the BEHOLD photo and art blog on the San Marcos Mercury./a>.