Butler University broke ground Friday on the Howard L. Schrott Center for the Performing and Visual Arts, a $13 million, 450-seat theater that will serve as performance and exhibition space for the theater, dance, music and visual arts programs.
“Coming to Butler in 1972 changed the entire trajectory of my life,” said Schrott ’76, whose $6.5 million gift made the building possible. “I loved my four years here. …I wanted to give something back, and decided now was the time.”
Butler President Bobby Fong said the Schrott Center will meet the University’s need for a space bigger than the 140-seat Eidson-Duckwall Recital Hall but smaller than 2,100-seat Clowes Hall. Michelle Jarvis, interim dean of the Jordan College of Fine Arts, said the center “will provide the Jordan College with a performance and visual art venue that will address the needs of all programs and departments.
“The department of theatre will have a mid-sized proscenium theatre for production, providing experiences for students and faculty that are different from the black box theatre,” she said. “The department of dance will have the opportunity to create innovative, collaborative and progressive choreographic works in a more intimate and informal setting. “In the Schrott Center, the School of Music can access rehearsal and performance space on a grander scale for all ensemble concerts for the Butler Symphony, the Wind Ensemble, bands, the choirs and Composers Orchestra, the Jazz Ensemble and Percussion Ensemble and Jordan Jazz, to name a few. Voice performance and the Lyric Theatre programs will have a venue on campus for performance. The center’s design identifies gallery areas for the exhibition of artwork from art students and faculty.”
Arts Administration students also will have the opportunity to develop management skills in the Schrott Center’s box office and front of house, she said.
Schrott told about 200 people gathered for the groundbreaking – including trustees, past and present deans and faculty members – that he remembered talk of a performing arts theater when he was a Butler student. He recalled Jim Phillippe, the head of the radio-TV department, walking down the hall with a set of drawings of the theater that Phillippe hoped would be built.
Schrott also remembered his counselor and instructor Ann Harper, who taught him and his classmates “the finer points of our chosen profession.” Harper was on hand for the groundbreaking.
So was Joe Collier, who worked in admissions at Butler for 32 years. One day in fall 1971, Collier showed up at T.C. Williams High School in Alexandria, Va., where Schrott was a senior. Schrott said he was called out of band class and told to go to the guidance office. There, he was introduced to Collier.
“He tells me he was from a university that I had never heard of, in a city I had heard of but had to look at a map to make sure I knew where it was,” Schrott said. “He shows me pictures of a beautiful campus, he tells me about a radio-TV department, a 40,000-watt FM radio station (when that sort of thing was important in the radio-TV field).
“To make a long story short, in a couple of weeks or months, I was telling all my friends at T.C. Williams High School that I was going to Butler University,” he said. “If it were not for the fact that Joe Collier stopped by T.C. Williams High School on that day, I don’t think we’d be here.”