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Hult Center for the Performing Arts

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National acclaim followed the opening of the Hult Center for the Performing Arts more than 25 years ago on September 24, 1982. That attention was especially rewarding, because the Hult Center was the last of five major arts facilities to open in the U.S. during a two-week period.

Marilyn Horne, the opening night guest, called it the most glorious hall she had ever been in. Bryon Belt, music critic for Musical America, noted that it was "a tremendous triumph." The Washington Times' Jay Alan Qauntrill referred to it as a "jewel."

Opening night rivaled the celebration that broke out when supporters learned voters passed a 1978 bond measure to build the center. Twice before - in 1972 and 1973 - similar bond measures were soundly defeated. And, now during an economic downturn, voters embraced the concept.

When former Mayor Les Anderson was asked to head the city's Civic Center Committee to develop a plan in 1977, the local economy was in the doldrums. He enlisted businessman Maurie Jacobs to lead the political effort to pass the $18.5 million measure to build the arts facility. It passed by a 2-to-1 margin. The genesis for the facility can be traced to a community-wide campaign by the Lane County Auditorium Association, which worked tirelessly to raise money for the first two ballot measures. The Association would receive credit for raising public interest and understanding of how a performing arts center could be a true cultural cornerstone for Eugene. That awareness was considered vital to passing the 1978 bond measure.

The Eugene Arts Foundation was formed in 1978 to raise private funds for the performing arts center, which was the first in the country built without the benefit of state or national funding. Benson Snyder served as the foundation's executive director. In addition to numerous contributions from a broad spectrum of the community, three local families contributed major gifts. Nils and Jewel Hult created an endowed fund to enhance the center's programming capability. The Chambers family provided supplemental operational support for local performing arts groups using the center through the Silva Endowment. The Soreng family contributed to building costs.

The Eugene Arts Foundation was subsequently renamed the Arts Foundation of Western Oregon (AFWO) and its funds are now part of the Oregon Community Foundation. A committee of local community leaders directs how funds are distributed.

In April of 1983, arts advocates and supporters organized the nonprofit Support HultCenter Operations (SHO) to raise funds for the operations of the center and develop a volunteer base to support activities in the building. Now, SHO has more than 140 active members.

Today, the Hult Center hosts more than 700 events and activities a year. It is the home of six local professional arts companies. These Resident Companies include Eugene Ballet Company, Eugene Concert Choir, Eugene Opera, Eugene Symphony, Oregon Bach Festival, and Oregon Festival of American Music. Prior to taking residence at the Hult Center, the Eugene Symphony, Eugene Opera, Eugene Ballet and Oregon Bach Festival hosted performances in the community.

The Hult Center for the Performing Arts incorporates visual arts throughout the facility. Works were selected through a juried process, and most of the artists were from Oregon. In some instances, the project architects, Hardy, Holzman and Pfeiffer of New York, altered the building's design to accommodate selected artwork. The Civic Center Commission, National Endowment for the Arts, Oregon Arts Commission and private donors (through the Eugene Arts Foundation) provided funding for 15 primary works, including the stunning blackberry stage curtain in the glorious Silva Concert Hall.

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