The 25 Most Amazing University Performing Arts Centers

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Staff Writers
Updated December 17, 2020

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Amazing Universities for Performing Arts Centers

The best university performing arts centers are designed not only for the benefit of those studying the arts but also as a way to help enrich the community of which they're a part. They act as a window to the larger world of performing arts by staging high-quality productions and attracting top professional talent to teach and perform.

Many centers contain multiple theaters, classrooms, and recital halls that enhance a student's performing arts education and offer students and the public access to a variety of exceptional events. All these centers provide arts programming with the intention of engaging the local community, and often include lectures, dance performances, concerts, and recitals. The following performing arts centers were chosen for their enduring commitment to arts education as well as their desire to provide exceptional arts programming to the public at the highest levels.

#1 California State University Fullerton Fullerton, CA
#2 University of Maryland College Park, MD
#3 Bucknell University Lewisburg, PA
#4 Idaho State University Pocatello, ID
#5 University of Florida Gainesville, FL
#6 University of Nebraska, Lincoln Lincoln, NE
#7 Vincennes University Vincennes, IN
#8 Clemson University Clemson, SC
#9 Indiana Wesleyan University Marion, IN
#10 New York University New York City, NY

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  1. California State University Fullerton

    Fullerton, CA

    Renamed in 2008 with the support of a generous $5 million donation by Joseph A.W. Claeys III, California State University Fullerton is now the home of a world-class performance space and learning center. The 250-seat James D. Young Theatre provides an area for student dramatic productions and the 800-seat Vaughncille Joseph Meng Concert Hall present guest artists as well as performances by the university's music ensemble, and the Hallberg Theatre offers a traditional black box performance space with theater in the round seating.

  2. University of Maryland

    College Park, MD

    Named for Clarice Smith, a University of Maryland alumni and former faculty member, the Clarice Smith Performing Arts Center is one of the metropolitan Washington D.C. area's most dynamic performance spaces. The center hosts residencies and workshops for students and is known regionally for its vibrant programming series that has included the Festival Chamber Music Recital and the Prince George's Philharmonic. Home to the university's School of Music and the School of Theatre, Dance, and Performance Studies, the Clarice Smith Performing Arts Center opened its doors in 2001.

  3. Bucknell University

    Lewisburg, PA

    Lewisburg, Pennsylvania is home to Bucknell University and the Weis Center for the Performing Arts. Opened in 1988 with the intention of inspiring students and the community, the center offers professional music, theatre and dance performances as well as lectures and presentations for students and the public. The 1,200-seat facility offers superior acoustic and a professional dance floor, and aims to bring culturally diverse presentations to the university. Upcoming free presentations include yoga and live music.

  4. Idaho State University

    Pocatello, ID

    With the help of Thelma E. Stephens and a number of private donors, the Stephens Performing Arts Center at Idaho State University is the crown jewel of Pocatello. Home to the Jensen Grand Concert Hall, the Barbara J. Marshall Rotunda, the Beverly B. Bistline Theatre, and the Rogers Black Box Theatre, the facility offers world-class performances in one of the nation's most beautiful settings. With a costume design studio and set design shop, as well as classrooms and meeting spaces, the center provides students with the opportunity to experience a professional-level performing arts education. Recent productions include Three Dog Night, Celtic Nights, and an evening with American jazz artist Chris Botti.

  5. University of Florida

    Gainesville, FL

    Gainesville, Florida is the home of the Curtis M. Phillips Center for the Performing Arts, which has presented performances by a number of established and emerging artists including Tony Bennett and Ray Charles. The 1,700-seat hall and Squiteri Studio Theatre have hosted the Brazilian Music Institute and Beauty and the Beast presented by Pofal Studios. Under the direction of Michael Blachly, the center has become one of the region's premier venues to see live theater and musical performances.

  6. University of Nebraska, Lincoln

    Lincoln, NE

    With a mission to educate, inspire, and entertain, the University of Nebraska's Lied Center for Performing Arts was constructed in 1986. Part of the Hixon-Lied College of Fine and Performing Arts, the center regularly presents world-renowned artists and entertainers including Wynston Marsalis and the Joffrey Ballet. With the intention of enriching the community through the arts, the center has worked in collaboration with the Nebraska Repertory Theater as well as Yo Yo Ma to bring theater and music to the public and to university students.

  7. Vincennes University

    Vincennes, IN

    Built to preserve the memory of world-renowned American entertainer, artist, writer, clown, and performer, Red Skelton, the Red Skelton Performing Arts Center is the pride of Vincennes University. Born and raised in the city, Skelton's painting and sculpture fill the walls of the center's lobby, and his former residence is just a few blocks down the street. Home to an 850-seat theater, a number of classrooms, and a rehearsal space, the center hosts regular productions by students as well as visiting artists and performers. Recent guests include the Texas Tenors, Guitar Fest, and an Evening of Music, Theatre, and Dance.

  8. Clemson University

    Clemson, SC

    South Carolina's Brooks Center for the Performing Arts was dedicated in 1994 with the help of a $2.5 million gift from Clemson alumni Robert Howell Brooks. With over 90,000 square feet of performance space, and a 1,000-seat theater, the center is also the home of a Black Box Theatre and a recital hall. With modern lighting and a state-of-the-art sound system, the facility boasts nearly 75 productions yearly including Broadway productions of Hairspray and Avenue Q. The Lillian and Robert Utsey Music Series has offered nearly 135 free performances in 28 years, and students are given opportunities to work with artists through various workshops including Dr. Paul Buyer's Steel Drum Workshop.

  9. Indiana Wesleyan University

    Marion, IN

    Indiana Wesleyan University's Phillippe Performing Arts Center is located in Marion, Indiana, and is composed of the Phillippe Auditorium, the Baker Recital Hall, Black Box Theater, and a number of classrooms to further arts education at the university. Presenting performances by the IWU Music Division and the IWU Theatre Guild, the center has also sponsored recitals and concerts by Joo Young Kim and the Wind Ensemble and Alumni Band.

  10. New York University

    New York City, NY

    Opened in 2003 in the heart of lower Manhattan's Greenwich Village, the Skirball Center for the Performing Arts is New York University's first professional performance space. The 860-seat theater offers musical, comedy, and dance performances alongside lectures and university events. Their Big Red Chair Family Series provides child and family friendly shows like Harold and the Purple Crayon and Jim Henson's Dinosaur Train-Live! Intended to engage youngsters and families within the community, the center also spotlights student performances and events, and strives to uphold a strong commitment to performing arts education.

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