GMU venues host boxers and ballerinas
George Mason University’s Center for the Arts hosted five days of boxing matches on its flagship Fairfax campus this summer. Hardly a typical booking, but it was a special occasion: Northern Virginia was hosting the World Police and Fire Games.
“The ring looked good up there,” says Rick Davis, the dean of the College of Visual and Performing Arts and the executive director of Mason’s other arts complex, the Hylton Performing Arts Center on the Prince William campus.
Hosting an athletic event might have been outside the box for a performing arts center, but it was in line with Mason’s commitment to serving the region. The university’s arts centers, for example, provide venues for the Fairfax Symphony and the Manassas Ballet.
For 25 years, the nearly 2,000-seat GMU Center for the Arts has provided Northern Virginians with a convenient alternative to driving to Washington, D.C., to see nationally known performers.
The GMU Center was joined five years ago by the 1,100-seat Hylton Center, a joint project of the university, Prince William County, the city of Manassas and the commonwealth. The Hylton has a 240-seat family theater, too, which is available for special events. “We’re a friendly rental,” Davis says. “We view ourselves as partners.”
Most of the arts centers’ patrons live within a 10-mile radius of the venues, Davis says, and about 350,000 come through the doors annually.
In the latest available figures compiled in a 2010 study by the nonprofit Americans for the Arts, direct spending by nonprofit arts and culture organizations and their audiences in Fairfax County alone totaled almost $80 million, bringing $1.65 million into local government coffers. Mason’s share in those statistics wasn’t quantified, but, obviously, art centers are doing their part to punch up the local economy.