Growing with the Sun

In just a few weeks, Grand Center Arts Academy will celebrate another milestone – the opening of the Sun Theatre. The Sun Theatre opened in 1913 as the Victoria Theater. Over the years, the name changed a few times; it has served as a playhouse and a movie theater. Eventually, the building grew quiet and stood vacant for 40 years. Inside, the theater was a wreck. A tree had grown on the roof, spreading its roots to empty space below. There was a gaping hole in the ceiling, graffiti on the walls and decay from years of neglect. But, someone saw the potential in bringing the theater back to life. About two years ago, The Lawrence Group, an architecture firm, and Grand Center, Inc., a non-profit dedicated to the growth and development of the historic arts and cultural district, started working together on what became an approximately $11.4 million renovation. Sun Theatre 4_web What does the renovated theater mean for the students and staff of Grand Center Arts Academy? It means they will gain a theatre and classroom space. The expansion includes almost 30,000 square feet of space and will allow GCAA to accommodate more students. The theater will have approximately 600 seats. The updated space includes three new classrooms designed as small lecture halls, a space for a small dance studio and offices. There are dressing rooms for performers and a large, open space for designing the sets for productions. On May 10, GCAA will host a gala event to formally open the Sun Theatre. The classroom spaces and theatre will be ready for students in the fall. Plans are underway as well for events during the summer. Growth is happening inside GCAA, too. Classroom space will be constructed to get ready for 2014-2015. The school hopes to draw 700 students for enrollment, up from more than 500 who attend GCAA. GCAA currently serves students in grades 6 through 10 and will continue to grow one grade per year through 12th grade in 2015-2016. Grand Center Arts Academy is the first performing and visual arts public charter school in Missouri. Classes include core curriculum of math, science, communication arts and social studies, along with dance, instrumental music, vocal music, visual arts, theatre and musical theatre.