After dedicating a new sports and wellness center this past month, Dakota Wesleyan University in Mitchell is now focusing on the arts. The school is planning a $1 million project to build a new theater.
Plans for a new Dakota Wesleyan facility include a black box theater, classrooms, and faculty offices. Lori Essig is the vice president of marketing and communications at Dakota Wesleyan. She says the new theater will replace one of the oldest buildings on campus.
“The performing arts at Dakota Wesleyan are very healthy and well received by our community, but we have faced challenges in recent years because the building in which our current theater is located is more than a 100 years old. We’ve had to add on an elevator to make it accessible but it’s still not ideal. It really is just is older building that is really in not great shape for the kinds of productions we like to do,” says Essig.
To remodel the old theater would have cost about 8 million dollars, financing Essig says the school doesn’t have. But she says donors were excited to be a part of plans for the new theater that marks the third construction project on the campus over the past four years. “You build a building and pretty soon people start to notice what’s going on and pretty soon you’ve got people dreaming about what other buildings we might be able to build on this campus, or what other kinds of programs we might offer that will really lend themselves to South Dakota, and to supporting business in this part of the country and so I think it has a lot to do with wanting to be part of something successful,” says Essig. The project is planned as an addition to the Dakota Discovery Museum with seating for about 100 people. Dakota Wesleyan has record enrollment this year, including about 900 students in both on-campus and in online classes.