The daily Nebraskan. ([Lincoln, Neb.) 1901-current, November 11, 1998, Page 10, Image 10

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center stage m Lincoln
Editor’s note: Today’s story is the first in a three-part series
according to Gail McNair; director of develop
ment at the Lied Center.
The $15 million came through a $10 million
donation from local businesses and citizens, and
the Nebraska Legislature provided the extra $5
million from state funds. During the construc
tion of the Lied Center, feuding parties debated
what it meant for the future of the Nebraska
arts and entertainment scene. Some saw it as
I an unprecedented improvement to
f . Lincoln, while others
_ 1 iA/*\s % /jl believed it was a
r risky gamble with
taxpayers’ money.
The practicality
of the center and the
variety of the acts it
proposed to show
case were two widely debated subjects.
Herb Howe, associate to the chancellor and
former dean of the College of Fine and
Performing Arts, worked with the Lied Center
examining me nistory ana rote oj tne Liea center jor reforming
Arts as a cultural centerpiecefor the state of Nebraska.
By Sarah Baker
Senior staff writer
The Lied Cento for Performing Arts has a history filled with
changes, controversy and a tradition of ever-evolving goals contin
uously working toward fruition.
Since the Lied Center, 301 N. 12th St., launched its grand
opening season in 1990, that list of goals has morphed the estab
lishment into what it is today: an arts organization dedicated to
bringing the best programming possible to the state of Nebraska.
Lied Cento Director Charles Bethea, who took over the post on
January 6,1997, said he has worked to renew the original mission
of the center, but most
importantly, to improve
“When I was first
considered for this
position, I learned some
thing,” Bethea said. “I
learned that the Lied
Center is a unique and
powerful arts center, ]
because it is the only one J
in the state. It is of and for |
the people of Nebraska.” §
Bethea said he had §
some clear-cut goals i
when he started at the |
Lied Center and has tai- I
lored those goals to fit in |
with previous programs m
enacted before he Jf
arrived. M
x warn iu mane
programming accessible and reasonable to all communities
also to expand outreach efforts as much as we can to strength
en the connection with the people of Nebraska,” Bethea said.
Dick Durst, dean of the College of Fine and
. Performing Arts, agreed with Bethea and said the Lied
Center offers a rare opportunity within Nebraska.
“When I go around the state, I am amazed at the
number of people who look at the Lied as theirs,” Durst
said. “It has a statewide presence. And we can alw;
a better job investing in the people of Nebraska.”
Although the Lied Center has become somethii
a staple for the University of Nebraska-Lincoln
city campus, the looming building that dominates
the comer of 12th and R streets wasn’t something
that was finished easily, and in fact it garnered
much controversy before reaching completion.
I -
amazed at the
number of people
who look at the Lied
as theirs. It has a
statewide presence.”
Dick Durst
and Performing Arts dean
A musical foundation
The center is named in honor of the late Ernst Lied, a 1927
UNL graduate who made a minor fortune as a local Buick dealer
before he became a millionaire investor in pre-commercialized Las
Vegas property.
His gamble on Vegas paid off. After his death in 1980 at the age
of 74, Lied’s fortune was transformed into a $ 133 million trust fund
dedicated to the enrichment of lives of Midlanders.
Ten million dollars of that fund was donated to the University
of Nebraska-Lincoln in the form of a challenge grant through
Christina Hixson, the executor of Lied’s estate at the Lied
In order to qualify for the grant, the university raised $ 15 mil
lion in additional funds to support maintenance endowments,
sian aunng ana aner 11s controversial Beginnings.
He said the contention stemmed from citizens who were unsure
if the cit] sustain and afford an organization like the Lied
“The question of funding really came to a head when the
Unicameral was asked for the $5 million,” Howe said. “People had
serious doubts whether eastern Nebraska would be able to support
a serious performing arts center and t$ally make it into a viable
There also 'was concern that the Lied would kill all the other
arts organizations in Lincoln.
“The Lied was seen as this 700-pound gorilla that would
squash everything else,” he said. ...
Controversy also abounded on the placement of the crater in
Lincoln instead of Omaha.
Howe believes the center has overcome many of those
initial doubts that were loudly verbalized through
out die community.
Many of the groups that were so
worried about being wiped out
by the Lied Centra have
actually been able
utilize the
center to their
advantage, he said,
[ citing the Lincoln Symphony
| Orchestra as an example. Today,
I the orchestra frequently uses the
Lied Center for its performances.
Technical difficulties
With construction finished, the
Lied Center faced problems of a
more technical sort, such as an
insufficient sound system,
uncomfortable seating, air
low systems that caused
both drafts and lack of circu
lation and areas that were
not handicapped acces
technical directo
Lied Center,:
st of the nrn
lems were
through minor
The problems
weren’t detected
until after comple
tion, because
they were things
that could
known only
with an audi
ence in
Matt Haney/DN
“Those problems were minor in every sense,” Stratman said.
“When you consider the cost of a building like this, die cost of fix
ing die problems wasn’t outrageous.”
* The building’s completion ended up costing about $20 million,
Howe said, and it hasn’t been only smooth sailing since.
He said the Lied Center ran deficits for several years because it
had to support pay for staff before it ever sold a ticket- eventually
bottoming out at a $600,000 deficit
“Any time you deal with the performing arts* finance is an
interesting question,” Howe said. “The cost of putting on acts con
tinues to go up, and fees go up. The community support and the
help from die Friends of die Lied has been world class.”
Taking the Lied
In his first year as director, Bethea said he enjoyed a good
financial year because of a concerted team effort, which helped
turn around the Lied Center’s financial woes.
Bethea is the third person to hold the position of director of the
Lied Center, the first two having lasted fewer than 10 years collec
The center’s first director, Robert Chumbley, began his stint as
director with the opening of the facility in 1989. Chumbley
remained in Nebraska until 1994, when he took a position at State
University in Buffalo, N.Y., as head of the school’s new performing
-artsce^^fe:??;fi^ v
Chumbley left the university on good terms, and a national
search for a new director resulted in the position being awarded to
C. Bruce Marquis, who took over as director in October 1994.
Marquis remained in the position until May 1996, when he
resigned because his artistic and institutional visions for the Lied
Center differed from those of the university, according to a 1996
Daily Nebraskan article.
in an odd turn or events, Marquis ended up re-applying for his
former position once the national search for a replacement began,
but his change of heart was apparently too little too late, and
Bethea, the current director, was awarded the job.
Concerted efforts
While the Lied Center is entering its 10th anniversary season
next year, Bethea is spending time re-evaluating the goals and gen
eral mission of Nebraska’s leading entertainment venue.
As part of this re-evaluation, Bethea said he, along with other
Lied Center employees, worked to tighten the wordy mission state
ment into something more tangible, eliminating unnecessary com
plexity. .
“We wanted to find the real intent of the people who were at the
fnmlrAnf Af oraofinrt tka «nAki/lA nil ^kn fnnntn fknf aa
consistent organization partnerships
and to ensure continuing financial and physical stability.
Bethea said most of die ideas in the mission statement aren’t
things that come to a final solution, rather they are ongoing, con
tinuous goals such as increased outreach programs and steady
ticket sales.
ii a a uiauci ui uuuiig an me uungs ana uuiiamg on mem 10
refresh the mission,” Bethea said. “We try to use those as a broad
guide to everything we do. Everything is ongoing, and everything
is a community effort”
Bethea said the Lied Center, although its main focus is on the
present, is constantly looking ahead.
Programming for the 1999-2000 season is already under way,
and the Lied Center’s administration is planning to broaden some
of its more successful programs, such as the popular family
“One thing we. want to do is extend our programs to commu
nities farther away in Nebraska,” he said. “We want to take some
of our artists to communities interested in seeing them. We want
to go to those communities - and then beyond that.”
Durst reaffirmed die same broad goals for the future of the
Lied Center.
“We want to continue what we have begun now,” he said.
I “We also hope to make these performances available to peo
V pie whom, for whatever reason, may not come into the col
\ lege or the Lied.
' “We will take it to them.”
UNL’s dance program optimistic about future
DANCE from page 9 _
new approaches and new styles.
Kane has worked with her students
on contact improvisation, teaching
them how to create movement off of
each other and to dance with their
weight off balance.
Holcombe has introduced her stu
dents to an inventive style of move
ment characteristic of modem compa
nies such as Momix and Pilobolus,
with which she has performed.
But the two women aren’t just
bringing change to the classroom.
They’re working on improving the
' i .4 \ J i * i ?
image of dance in the entire, city.
Since Holcombe and Kane have
arrived at UNL, students say serious
efforts have been made by both to pro
mote the program in and out of the
campus community.
Kane and Holcombe have orga
nized special showings of student
worics and increased publicity to raise
the community’s awareness of the pro
The two also have worked with the
administration to get the program a
new dance floor in the rehearsal space
in Mabel Lee Hall, Room 304.
Outside of the program, both
women taught freshmen foundation
courses this semester aimed at intro
ducing new students to the arts.
Kane and Holcombe’s endeavors
have contributed to a positive attitude
pervasive among the dance majors,
Fusillo said.
“Right now, everything is starting
to click,” Holcombe said.
“We’re contrasting the change in
weather with positive attitudes.
Explosions are happening all over the
dance department” •
fjowever, those involved with the
dance^anogram know it will take time
to enact permanent changes.
Holcombe said she could see how
deeply her dappers were.affected by
the year’s transitions and speculations.
“I think they have a hard time
trusting people,” Holcombe said. “At
the same time, I think what they’ve
been through is helping a lot to push
Because the students struggle to
trust others, Holcombe would like to
see them exercise their own indepen
“I want the students to take more
responsibility for themselves,”
Holcombe said. “I want the students to
feed off of each other.”
Holcombe would also enjoy see
ing Orchesis, a student organization
for dance majors, come back to life.
Kane said she wants the students to
feel more like a family. For her, a sense
of community creates a more hos
pitable environment for artistic cre
In order to foster this environment,
the program plans to put into effect all
dance-program meetings next semes
ter where all dance majors and faculty
would be involved
“We just have to take one thing at a
time,” Kane said. “Sometimes it’s a
slow process.”