Sunday, March 15, 2009

A Ride with Bob

Extract from The Austin Chronicle article by Robert Faires entitled "A Place to Gather Again", dated March 21, 2008.

A Place to Gather Again
The Long Center recycles not only Palmer Auditorium's materials but also its civic purpose

They came by the thousands.

When the Long Center for the Performing Arts threw wide its doors for a four-day open house earlier this month, a multitude of Austinites turned out to check it out. They walked up the Grand Stair to the 30,000-square-foot City Terrace and listened as the MASS Ensemble made music from the building itself, playing long strings attached to the old support structure ringing the plaza. They went inside and explored every nook and cranny of the facility, from the glassed-in Kodosky Donor Lounge with its expansive view of the erupting Downtown skyline to the dressing rooms for visiting stars to the restrooms, with their 2-1 ratio of women's facilities to men's. They stepped up to the walls and ran their fingers along the literally weather-beaten green and brown aluminum tiles rescued from the dome of Palmer Auditorium, the municipal center that had previously occupied the site for almost 50 years. They filed into the 2,400-seat Michael & Susan Dell Hall and the 230-seat Debra and Kevin Rollins Studio Theatre to hear chamber music and opera and watch theatre and dance. And when Grupo Fantasma got Dell Hall rockin', they danced themselves, right in the aisles.

Before there was Elvis, before there was Hank, there was a fiddler from West Texas by the name of Bob Wills – and he was The King. A musical biography about Bob Wills was written by Ray Benson and Anne Rapp. “Part memory play, part loving homage, part country concert, this Ride is so peppy and irresistible: Waylon Jennings was right: Bob Wills is still the king,” says The Dallas Morning News.


In November 1998, the citizens of Austin voted to approve the City’s lease of the Lester E. Palmer Auditorium to the nonprofit group Arts Center Stage for renovation into a community performing arts venue. In April 1999, Arts Center Stage received its lead gift of $20 million from Joe R. and Teresa Lozano Long, and the Arts Center Stage project was renamed the Joe R. and Teresa Lozano Long Center for the Performing Arts.

In November 1999, the Long Center hired renowned Chicago architects Skidmore, Owings & Merrill as project architect for the Long Center project. The schematic design was completed in July 2000, and the design development phase was completed in February 2001. By early 2001, the Long Center had raised over $40 million of its fundraising goal.


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