CORVALLIS, Ore. — Construction is nearly three-quarters complete on the $75 million Patricia Valian Reser Center for the Creative Arts, a multidisciplinary performance, gallery and teaching space that will open April 6, 2024 on Oregon State University’s Corvallis campus.
The 49,000-square-foot center will be known as “PRAx.” The acronym stands for Patricia Reser Arts, with the “x” signifying the center’s intersections between the arts and other academic disciplines, said Peter Betjemann, the inaugural Patricia Valian Reser Director of Arts and Education at OSU.
“As an arts space located at a major research institution, we have a special and unique obligation to represent the entirety of the university,” Betjemann said. “The thing I am most excited about is the way we will use the venues to activate relationships between art and every discipline at Oregon State.”
The center is named for Patricia Valian Reser, OSU alumna and volunteer leader, who has given $36 million to the OSU Foundation for the arts at Oregon State, including $25 million for PRAx.
“For Oregon State to reach its full potential as a world-leading, problem-solving, changemaking university, bold investment in the arts is necessary,” Reser said. “PRAx will foster connections between the arts, academics and research. There’s no better place for this than OSU, which is already known for collaboration across disciplines.”
Reser, her late husband Al, and their family have supported many areas at the university with their philanthropy.
The center will house five venues: a concert hall, black box theater, outdoor arts plaza, gallery and lobby.
“This center will be a destination for the entire university community, Oregonians and guests beyond the state,” said OSU President Jayathi Y. Murthy. “By emphasizing the relationships among art, humanities, science and technology, the center will serve as a national leader in arts programming, artist residencies and the integration of the arts into research.”
Betjemann said that interdisciplinary integration is a key part of extending the impact of the arts beyond individuals who are already enthusiastic about traditional art forms.
“We are interested in building new audiences by speaking in the languages that interest people, whether those are the languages of data science or engineering or oceanography,” he said.
Passersby can see construction crews’ exterior progress on the building at the corner of Southwest 15th Avenue and Washington Way. A large geometric overhang coming from the second floor will look over the open-air Celia Strickland Austin & Ken Austin III and Loni Austin Parrish & Scott N. Parrish Arts Plaza, which will include a grassy sloped area where audiences can watch an outdoor show.
The ceiling of the 490-seat Lynne Hallstrom Detrick Concert Hall rises on the south side of the building, with a specially designed concrete wall to block out the sound of trains running across the street, Betjemann said.
Crews are preparing to install large reflector panels in the concert hall as a key element of the venue’s unique acoustic qualities. The panels will hang near the ceiling and can be tuned to adjust the way sound reverberates in the room, to best showcase events from lectures to symphonies.
The Edward J. Ray Theater, the center’s black box theater, will serve as a classroom and a performance space for more intimate shows, art installations and experimental practices. Ray served as OSU’s president from 2003 to 2020 and has been an advocate for and major donor to the arts at OSU for the last two decades.
The Kate and John Stirek Gallery will host contemporary art exhibitions, including one each year based on a theme that brings together the arts, humanities and science. The opening exhibition, curated by Bob Santelli, OSU director of popular music, will explore relationships between technology and the evolution of popular music. After that, the gallery’s chief curator Ashley Stull Meyers will bring in exhibitions centered around themes like watersheds, artificial intelligence and polar regions.
The Thomas W. Toomey Lobby will function as a space for audiences to mingle before entering the concert hall. Smaller and more local groups that align with the theme of mainstage performances will be booked as opening acts in the lobby.
The lobby will also be home to the center’s only permanent artwork: a suspended structure by data artist Refik Anadol, whose work is currently on display in New York City’s Museum of Modern Art. The sculpture is part of the Oregon Arts Commission’s Percent for Art program.
To the west of the main structure, an historic building has been remade into a rehearsal and classroom space named after philanthropists Linda and Frank Morse.
OSU will announce the inaugural season’s full event schedule this fall, and an open house and performance for the public will occur on April 6, 2024.
The arts center is a cornerstone project of the Believe It fundraising and engagement campaign led by the OSU Foundation. Donors wishing to support the project may make a gift to name a seat in the concert hall.
About Oregon State University: As one of only three land, sea, space and sun grant universities in the nation, Oregon State serves Oregon and the world by working on today’s most pressing issues. Our more than 35,000 students come from across the globe, and our programs operate in every Oregon county. Oregon State receives more research funding than all of the state’s comprehensive public universities combined. At our campuses in Corvallis and Bend, marine research center in Newport, OSU Portland Center and award-winning Ecampus, we excel at shaping today’s students into tomorrow’s leaders.