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University of Utah Breaks Ground on Arts & Education Complex

Beverly Taylor Sorenson Arts & Education Complex Exterior Rendering

June 14, 2011 – The University of Utah (the U) broke ground today on the Beverley Taylor Sorenson Arts & Education Complex. The estimated $24 million complex will serve as  a premier academic hub of evidence-based, K-12 arts integration research, training, practice and advocacy. It will be located at the southern entrance of the campus, adjacent to Milton Bennion Hall and east of the David Eccles School of Business.

The groundbreaking comes three years after the Sorenson Legacy Foundation provided the lead donation of $12 million for the construction of an interdisciplinary arts and education complex at the U’s campus.

The interdisciplinary arts and education complex is named for Beverley Taylor Sorenson, a life-long advocate for arts education. Sorenson is the widow of the late biotechnology pioneer James LeVoy Sorenson. Together, they founded the Sorenson Legacy Foundation. Beverley is a former elementary school teacher who also founded Art Works for Kids, an innovative program that integrates music, dance, theater and visual art into core subjects to improve overall learning and comprehension for elementary school students.

“The Sorenson Legacy Foundation’s donation marks the largest donation in support of arts and education in university history and the U is extremely honored to receive it,” said David W. Pershing, acting president of the University of Utah, at the ceremony. “This complex embodies the unique vision and legacy that Beverley Sorenson has in bringing high-quality arts instruction into the lives of all Utah children and will have a profound impact on their learning in all subjects.”

The complex will house a newly created national Center for Integrated Arts into Academic Learning, guided jointly by the U’s Colleges of Education and Fine Arts. A principal goal of the center is to research and facilitate teaching methods for integrating arts education into traditional core subjects such as math, science, history and language arts.

Educators from the two colleges will work with the U’s youth programs, other higher education institutions, public schools, arts groups and community members to implement a new teacher education program and train arts specialists for placement in Utah’s elementary schools.

The new facility also will house several programs dedicated to fostering relationships between the U’s Virginia Tanner Creative Dance Program and five academic centers from the College of Education: the Center for  Reading and Literacy, the Utah Education Policy Center, the Center for the Advancement of Technology in Education, the Eunice Kennedy Shriver National Center for Community of Caring, and a new national Center for Science and Math Education. The complex and its various centers and programs will be directed by a world-class interdisciplinary team of faculty members and school and community partners.

“The arts are an essential part of a well-rounded, high-quality education and we are thrilled that the University of Utah has acknowledged this and dedicated its resources to establishing this new complex,” says Sorenson. “This will be a place where various organizations, professors, teachers and children can come to celebrate the crucial role the arts play in providing children with the best education.”

For over 16 years, Sorenson has worked to make the arts a fundamental part of elementary education in Utah. She says she is driven by the theory that  infusing the arts across all subjects not only fosters crucial social and emotional growth and develops a well-rounded child, but also measurably decreases behavioral problems and raises test scores in subjects like science, history, math and language arts.

Sorenson’s Art Works for Kids program is now considered a national model for effective, integrated elementary arts instruction. In 2008, the model was adopted by the Utah State Legislature as the Beverley Taylor Sorenson Arts Learning Program, which has effectively reached more than 100,000 students in about 50 schools across the state.

Beverley Taylor Sorenson Arts & Education Complex at the U was designed by EDA Architects and HGA Architects, and construction will be completed by Okland Construction. For more information on the complex and the arts and education initiative, visit