Mason’s New Performing Arts Center Receives Support from Distinguished Donors

Posted: May 19, 2008 at 1:00 am, Last Updated: November 30, -0001 at 12:00 am

Hylton Performing Arts Center drawing
The new Prince William Campus performing arts center is named for the Cecil D. and Irene V. Hylton Foundation of Dale City, Va.

By Catherine Ferraro

Modeled after intimate 19th-century European opera houses, a new performing arts venue is rising on the Prince William Campus. It is named the Hylton Performing Arts Center and is scheduled to open in spring 2010.

The $44 million, 86,000-square-foot center will provide a state-of-the-art setting for major touring artists and local performers, giving an important economic boost for Prince William County. It will feature a reception space, an art gallery and two theaters. The project is a partnership among Mason, Prince William County and the City of Manassas, and has support from the Commonwealth of Virginia and several private philanthropic donors.

“We are thrilled that so many prominent people and organizations in the Prince William and Manassas communities have contributed to the success of this project,” says Brian Marcus, associate dean for development for the College of Visual and Performing Arts. “It’s been encouraging to see the enthusiasm with which the project has been greeted across the community.”

The center is named for the Cecil D. and Irene V. Hylton Foundation of Dale City, Va., which has made a $5 million grant to the fund-raising campaign. Part of the grant is a challenge grant in which one-half of all new commitments to the campaign will be matched dollar for dollar, up to $2.5 million, by the Hylton Foundation.

The Hyltons, who are best known for developing much of Dale City, established the foundation because they believe in giving back to the communities in which they did business. The foundation provided some of the funding for the construction and endowment fund necessary to build the center.

The center’s main performance venue, the 1,166-seat Merchant Hall, will be named for Carol Merchant Kirby for her $1 million commitment. Kirby is a member of Mason’s Prince William Campus Advisory Board, as well as the Board of Visitors, and is a long-time patron of the arts. Inspired by Milan’s famous opera house, La Scala, Merchant Hall will be a horseshoe-shaped space. Twenty-seven family boxes above the orchestra will encircle the stage. The space will adapt to fit a Broadway play or a full orchestra.

Local groups such as the Prince William Symphony, the Manassas Ballet Theater, the Prince William Youth Orchestra and numerous other regional performing arts groups are expected to use the space. The theater will also host performances by Mason’s music, dance and theater departments.

The second venue in the Hylton Center will be the 300-seat Gregory Family Theater. This performance space is a $750,000 gift from John O. Gregory in memory of his wife, Angela G. Gregory, and son, J. Scott Gregory. Gregory is chairman of Gregory Construction Inc. and has played an important role in shaping the landscape of Manassas and Prince William County.

The Hylton Center will also partner with the Didlake Foundation, which supports programs that help meet the long-term needs of people with disabilities in Manassas and Prince William County. As part of this partnership, which was made possible through the estates of Mr. and Mrs. Roger J. Costello, the center’s 10,000-square-foot grand foyer will be named the Didlake Grand Foyer. The Hylton Center will provide employment and volunteer opportunities for Didlake clients.

In addition to foundations, many local businesses have provided significant support for the Hylton Center endowment campaign. Lead corporate gifts came from organizations such as Lockheed Martin Corporation, American Type Culture Collection, Dominion, Temporary Solutions Inc., Micron and Vulcan Materials. The Buchanan Partners Gallery will be a visual arts gallery on the second level that will house rotating exhibits showing the best work of local artists in a variety of media.

Other spaces include a Patrons Lounge; scene, paint and costume shops; dressing rooms; catering kitchen; administrative offices; and work space for visiting companies.

For more information, contact Marcus at 703-993-8607.

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