Jazz music filtered softly through the hum of voices. People mulled about, their nametags referencing their names and positions. The smells of new wood, paint and carpet wafted through the air.
And something else permeated the air, unseen but present all the same—pride.
On Feb. 21, the new Howard L. Schrott Center for the Arts officially became a part of Butler University’s campus.
The elegant event started with tours of the building with hors d’oeuvres and cocktails served in the Wood Family Foyer.
Tall ceilings towered over high tables set with candles in the foyer, dimmed lights flickering off the striking red paint.
The Board of Trustees, President Jim Danko, deans, faculty and many donors were in attendance.
Groups of people went up and down the identical staircases on either side of the auditorium entrances.
As the guests gathered to go inside the auditorium—the building’s focal point—excitement mounted and smiles appeared.
As they stepped across the threshold into the auditorium, that excitement wasn’t solely for what they saw but also for what they look forward to seeing from Butler students on that stage.
Conceptualization for this building started four years ago, but the idea for a mid-size arts studio has existed since the 1970s.
“We got to talking about this studio and began to realize the impact that it could have,” said Howard Schrott, the man for whom the building is named.
People began to see the use for the building, not only as a space for students but the Butler community as well.
The Schrott Center auditorium holds 450 people, a happy medium between the small Eidson-Duckwall Recital Hall and the 2,200-seat Clowes Memorial Hall.
On Thursday, the auditorium had a massive feel to it with only the esteemed guests sitting in the audience.
The enormity grew as guests took in the long, red curtain hanging just behind the podium and the giant ribbon spread across the stage.
“Butler knew that its students needed another performance venue,” Danko said while opening the ceremony. “We wanted a space that would provide more performance options for our students as well as guest artists, lecturers and community groups.
“The Howard L. Schrott Center for the Arts is that missing part for the Butler Arts complex.”
This ceremony wasn’t just for the limited number of people seated in the audience Thursday. It was also for the numerous audiences the Schrott Center will host and the students entertaining them.
“On this stage, dance students, theatre students and music students will all be able to practice and perform in ways that they hadn’t been able to do on our campus before,” said Dr. Kathryn Morris, provost and vice president for academic affairs. “This building is a powerful venue to engage in our mission in educating our students.”
After a speech from The Collegian’s Kevin Vogel, a Jordan College of the Arts junior, two large pairs of scissors were handed out. And as a community of people deeply involved in the creation of the Schrott Center watched, the ribbon was cut, and the center was dedicated.
Following the dedication, the audience joined those on stage for dinner.
The curtain rose to reveal candlelit tables placed in symmetry across the stage, which is the same size as Clowes’ stage. A jazz ensemble set the tone for dinner with its mellow notes and muted melodic phrases.
During dinner, the candles illuminated faces already alight with the glow of achievement.
The hope that generations of Butler students can use the center to hone their skills, showcase their hard work and perform their hearts out was the topic that led conversations during the four-course meal.
Even Thursday night’s icy storm could not dampen the spirits of the donors and guests.
Exiting the building after the event, the guests knew this night was only the beginning of what the Schrott Center will mean to Butler.
“I hope people will come in here, and they’ll be informed or entertained or enlightened,” Schrott said. “Maybe they’ll experience the arts in a different way or form a new appreciation for the arts. And if that sort of stuff starts to happen, then that will fulfill all my fantasies.”
Aside from a few perfomances in March, the Schrott Center’s grand public opening will be for the first annual Butler Arts Festival, which will be held April 18-28.