FORT WAYNE — A landmark Fort Wayne historic structure is preserved and a new Media Entrepreneurship Training in the Arts (META) program housed with the University of Saint Francis was announced last week with the purchase of the Scottish Rite Center at 431 W. Berry St. The university announced the program during a press conference Thursday, Nov. 10, at the Scottish Rite.
With the purchase of the multi-use facility, the university plans to create a media production complex for the education of students in the arts disciplines and for the creation of profitable business enterprises. The 82,672 square-foot building holds a 2,018-seat auditorium, meeting rooms, ballroom, offices and lounges that adapt well to its reuse as an arts and media technology center, said university President Sister M. Elise Kriss, a Sister of St. Francis of Perpetual Adoration.
“A venue such as the Scottish Rite Center will provide a noteworthy performance hall for University of Saint Francis productions and convocations, but can also be used for public conferences, productions, concerts and professional meetings,” she said.
The university is one of only a handful of schools in the country pursuing a hands-on, media team-driven program in an entrepreneurial manner, said university Provost Dr. Rolf Daniel.
“Including all of the arts makes us distinctive, especially for a small, private school. We have been canvassing new media programs across the country and have not found one like ours,” he said.
Plans call for the multimedia center to serve as the main facility for several of the university’s existing programs and as a home for newly-developed programs. Under consideration are centers for instructional multimedia performance, documentary photography, entrepreneurial education, theater and arts administration and two- and three-dimensional media production, among other professional concentrations.
County officials see the purchase as an economic development boon and creative reuse of a historical structure.
“This is one of the key cornerstones we’ve been trying to secure as a response to a new economy,” said Allen County Economic Development Alliance Director Andi Udris. “Young people congregate downtown, and arts are key to attracting them. They are educated and mobile, and they create a vital downtown that attracts other professionals. This building is perfect for adaptive reuse. It was designed for special use, and this will be in line with what it was intended to do.”
The plan impacts regional economy in additional ways, Daniel said.
“It establishes ready-made student collaborative relationships for starting small businesses upon graduation, and provides artists and organizations from Fort Wayne and the Midwest with high-quality experienced professionals ready to enter the workforce,” he said.
The area arts community also heralds the university’s program/building marriage as an economic development driver. “Any time you have a new venture downtown it’s exciting, especially when the University of Saint Francis brings its programs with it,” said Arts United Executive Director Jim Sparrow. “It’s a fantastic opportunity, and aligns with an initiative in which we’ve been promoting the arts as a catalyst for economic development.”
“USF has an opportunity to create a distinctive media production facility that is educational and facilitates real-world multidimensional experiences for the new media industry,” Daniel said. “The establishment of a creative, collaborative center in downtown Fort Wayne could foster business and creative growth within the community. By leveraging existing programs and concentrations, students will be better prepared for careers, while enhancing the local economy.”
“We are pleased to put the beautiful, historic Scottish Rite facility to use by featuring our strong programs in the visual and performing arts, entrepreneurship and communication,” President Sister Kriss said. “Since 1944, the university has contributed to the local economy by providing the academic programs needed by the community. We are excited by this new opportunity to bring our students’ vibrant contributions to local organizations, while providing an education program and facility that are unique on a national scale.”
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