FREDONIA - The rest of the country is learning what many in the local community have known for years - the Michael C. Rockefeller Arts Center at SUNY Fredonia is a real gem.
The I.M. Pei-designed facility, which opened in 1969, has been named one of the "25 Most Amazing College Campus Theaters" by the website Best College Reviews.
Coming in at No. 19 on the list, Rockefeller is in prestigious company. Other venues on the list include those at Yale, Rutgers, the University of Michigan and Syracuse.
"Many people see their first shows at college theaters. They are the birthplace of imagination and feature some of the best architectural designs dating back to the early 1900s," the Best College Review article states. "These top 25 theaters celebrate large spaces, history, unique architecture, impressive interiors and innovative designs."
Of King Concert Hall - the largest of the three venues in the complex - the articles states "the inside auditorium has maintained its glory with plush seats in a pristine proscenium hall."
The article also references the upcoming Rockefeller expansion project, scheduled to start this summer. The project includes an addition that will house three new dance studios, sculpture and ceramics facilities, new media labs and a new public entrance.
Also included will be a multipurpose room to host an assortment of events, such as pre-concert lectures, post-performance discussions, film and video showings, and small receptions. The new dance studios will include one with flexible, tiered seating that can double as a performance space. There will also be a new, attractive public entrance and a cafe.
Rockefeller Arts Center Director Jefferson Westwood said this ranking came as a pleasant surprise.
"I did not know anything about this prestigious ranking until I checked my Facebook page," Westwood said. "Many friends and graduates from around the country had posted the article. It's a real honor to be on this list."
In addition to the 1,200-seat King Concert Hall, Rockefeller Arts Center also houses the Robert W. Marvel Theatre, the Alice E. Bartlett Theatre and two art galleries.
The main gallery was recently remodeled and named in honor of Cathy and Jesse Marion, who provided a major endowment for art gallery programming and outreach. There is also the Emmitt Christian Gallery, a small gallery dedicated to student exhibitions.
As a unit of SUNY Fredonia's Collage of Visual and Performing Arts, Rockefeller Arts Center serves as a venue to showcase the students and faculty in SUNY Fredonia's arts programs and hosts national and international touring artists.
More than 160 events are presented each year by the center with clients including academic departments, student organizations and community groups. Annual attendance exceeds 44,000 people.
The 120,000-square-foot facility houses faculty offices for the Department of Visual Arts and New Media and the Department of Theatre Arts and Dance, as well as classrooms, rehearsal halls and spacious, well-equipped art studios, dressing rooms, scenery and costume shops.
The full list of the "25 Most Amazing College Campus Theaters" can be viewed at bestcollegereviews.org.