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Ada's East Central University opens fine arts center



East Central University in Ada debuts the new Hallie Brown Ford Fine Arts Center with a Friday tour and dedication ceremony.

Plans for the center began in the late 1980s, and were put into motion when alumnae Hallie Brown Ford stepped in and donated $7 million. The university, 1100 E. 14th St., raised an additional $27 million to build the 85,000 square-foot, state-of-the-art complex.

The new center is equipped with an art gallery and sculpture garden, classrooms, a large auditorium and a high-definition television studio, as well as studios and practice rooms for communications, art and music students, said Dallas Copelin, coordinator for the facility.

Art students can now enroll in classes that take place inside elegant classrooms with large windows that bring in the natural light, Copelin said.

"My boss likes to joke that it's brought the arts out of the basement," she said.

But there's truth in the comedy: Over the years, many ECU art students were forced to work in basements of other buildings because they had no space of their own. Visual arts students were spread out across campus, with no means of communication with one another. Copelin said the new arts center gives them the opportunity to learn together in one place.

"They can meet and form a real arts community on the campus," she said.

Another goal of the new arts center is to attract world-class performers, hopefully creating cultural opportunities for the Ada community. Several performers are already lined up, including the Oklahoma Children's Orchestra with the Chickasha Youth Choir and the Oklahoma City Ballet. Copelin said the university hopes it can one day bring Broadway shows to the campus.

Opening weekend begins at 3 p.m. Friday with a tour of the building, followed by a dedication ceremony. Another tour begins at 5 p.m.; "A Year in the Life," a musical celebration of the university's history, will stage at 7 p.m. The opening continues 5 p.m. Saturday with another round of tours and a 7 p.m. performance. All events are free, but visitors need to contact the box office at (580) 332-8000 for performance tickets.

"?Paige Lawler


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