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MRU to open new performing arts centre

By Connor Sadler, January 29 2015 —

Opening this summer, Mount Royal University’s (MRU) Conservatory and Bella Concert Hall will be the first performing arts centre built in Calgary since the Epcor Centre opened in 1985.

The centre will grow MRU’s conservatory music program, adding new classrooms, six specialized rehearsal rooms and a 773-seat concert hall. Classrooms in the conservatory will  be available for public use.

“[The new space] really allows us to be more creative with what we do and serve a broader community,” conservatory director Paul Dornian says. “We wanted to create a space that adds value to the whole arts community and the community at large.”

Dornian says that it’s not uncommon for cities to go years without  building new arts centres, considering the resources needed. The Bella Concert Hall received over $70 million from the government and the Taylor family to fund construction. The centre is named after Taylor family matriarch Mary Belle Taylor, known as Bella to friends and family.

“When you stop and think of the complexity and how much is involved, [you need] growth in the community to warrant [construction of new arts centres],” Dornian says. ”In any community, this sort of thing doesn’t happen that often.”

The centre’s design is inspired by local landscapes, such as the prairies and mountains. This provincial theme is carried into the main concert hall by the acoustic pannelling modelled after an Alberta wild rose.

“I remember a stunning picture of an old barn in the foothills,” Dornian says. “[The architects] translated that into this very striking steel beam architecture on the interior of the concert hall that works as both a structural and a striking design feature.”

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