After seven years of planning and fundraising, Omaha Marian High School is set to break ground Thursday on a new $7.4 million performing arts center.
The 20,000-square-foot facility will include a 400-seat theater with a 40-foot proscenium and a 52-foot-high fly loft for maneuvering sets and lights. Also included will be a dance studio, dressing rooms and an instrumental music room with practice rooms.
The new structure will be situated off the Military Avenue entrance of the all-girls Catholic school at 7400 Military Ave.
Archbishop George J. Lucas offered a prayer during the groundbreaking ceremony Thursday. Among those attending were Sister Mary Gehringer, provincial of the Servants of Mary; Monsignor James Gilg, superintendent of schools for the Omaha Archdiocese; and Omaha Mayor Jim Suttle.
Susan Toohey, head of the school, said it long has prided itself on its academic and athletic programs and has fantastic facilities to back them.
But the arts have taken a “second seat,” she said. The new center will allow the school to “honor and acknowledge” those programs and to add to its arts offerings through additional coursework as well as guest lectures and seminars.
Moving the speech-drama and instrumental music rooms to the new center also will free up existing space for additional science, engineering and technology classrooms.
Marian already produces a large number of aspiring engineers, Toohey said, typically 20 or more a year. The school wants to add courses in the sciences, starting with anatomy and physiology classes.
“We want to stay on the cutting edge of these technologies to prepare young women for these career fields,” she said.
While the center will be available for rental, the school also hopes to use it to extend its community outreach.
Marian used to host the Boys & Girls Clubs of Omaha, Toohey said, and now is looking to partner with the organization on summer camps.
The school also would like to invite residents of the neighboring Skyline Retirement Community to attend plays and concerts and work with the nearby Madonna School, a Catholic school for special needs youths, on interactive courses for its students. The school is open to other ideas, Toohey said.
“We don't want it to be something that we build, it's ours and we lock the doors,” she said.
Indeed, the performing arts center and the capital campaign that funded it are the work of several hundred donors, including one who made a significant matching gift that brought the school to the point of moving ahead with the arts center, Toohey said.
The center is the fourth piece of a larger $12.1 million campaign that has been under way for about seven years.
The school has raised or has pledges for $9.6 million and will launch a public phase of fundraising to help fill the gap.
The school has already paid for and completed work on the first three pieces: adding $1 million to its endowment to help with tuition assistance; upgrading heating and air conditioning systems and adding windows; and rerouting a road around the school and adding student parking and parking lot lighting.
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