The San Angelo Performing Arts Center (SAPAC) opened in 2016, but the vision to create a hub for the performing arts in San Angelo started a decade before. In the early 2000’s, benefactors and organizations across the city envisioned a new space in which San Angelo residents could experience the diverse and expanding performing arts scene their city had to offer. In 2011, representatives from the San Angelo Cultural Affairs Council, Ballet San Angelo, Angelo Civic Theatre and San Angelo Symphony formed the San Angelo Performing Arts Coalition with the purpose to plan, fundraise, and eventually build the new center.
The first step was to find a suitable location for the project. The eventual location chosen turned out to already be occupied — by an abandoned Coca-Cola warehouse. The location, 82 Gills Street, was situated next to the antiquated City Auditorium, another project taken on by the Coalition planned to work with the city to completely renovate the auditorium.
Two buildings were designed to house the ultimate space for performing arts in the city. The first, a completely new space to be built atop Coca-Cola warehouse with state-of-the-art facilities and a modern, sleek design. The second, a historical landmark, renovated to house a new generation of audience members while maintaining the opulent and theatrical atmosphere with which it was built. The Coalition named the new building the Stephens Performing Arts Center after local philanthropist and business innovator, Steven Stephens, who’s daughter Liz and husband Devon Bates, and daughter Susan and husband Randy Brooks, inspired the naming of The Brooks and Bates Theatre inside the Stephens Performing Arts Center. The City Auditorium also received a new name, The Elta Joyce Murphey Performance Hall, named after another beloved local arts hero and donor.
The Stephens Performing Arts Center opened in 2016, ushering in a new era in San Angelo. The building houses everything from conference rooms to large dressing rooms with showers, private ballet studios and the 300 seat Brooks and Bates auditorium.
[For more info about the Brooks and Bates Theatre, please click here.]
The Murphey Performance Hall was not far behind, opening in 2017 with a completely renovated interior and over 1,300 seats.
[For more info about the Murphey Performance Hall, please click here.]
Together, the pair of buildings would comprise the San Angelo Performing Arts Campus. While SAPAC would own the Stephens Performing Arts Center completely, they would partner with The City of San Angelo to form a long and productive partnership in the ownership of the revamped Murphey Performance Hall. With so much creative performance art happening in both locations, the word campus is often used to describe the multi-purpose, multi-stage facilities with opportunities for not only performance, but education, outreach and a place to gather.
2004: Discussions begin about a new vision for a performing arts center to better serve our community.
2011: Renovations to the Murphey Performance Hall (still called the City Auditorium at the time) begin after generous donations and successful fundraising campaigns kick off.
2014: Construction of the Stephens Performing Arts Center
2016: SAPAC opens with Ballet San Angelo moving in as the first residents of the building
2017: The newly renovated Murphey Performance Hall opens with it’s first full concert by San Angelo Symphony in September. Ballet San Angelo presented the first full production with “The Nutcracker” in December of that year.
Today, SAPAC continues to be an exciting space for the performing arts in San Angelo. Ballet San Angelo is both a founding partner and current resident of SAPAC, housing 7 studios used to further dance education, fitness program, outreach and Joy of Movement classes. BSA produces The Nutcracker in The Murphey Performance Hall and uses the Brooks and Bates for their Children’s Ballet and Contemporary Performances. Be Theatre, also a resident company at SAPAC, continues to produce live theatre, with a strong outreach and education platform. Be Theatre occupies the Black Box Theatre as their home studio and performance space. They also perform on the stage in the Brooks and Bates Theatre for special events.
Please click here for more info about Ballet San Angelo.
Please click here for more info about Be Theatre.
Founders are those organizations who helped raise funding for the project with the best interest of our community and the performing arts at the heart of every effort. These founders include San Angelo Cultural Affairs Council, Ballet San Angelo, Angelo Civic Theatre and the San Angelo Symphony.
A VESSEL FOR THE ARTS
Our goal is to nurture and encourage growth in the performing arts in San Angelo. Many other performing arts groups in San Angelo are consistently performing a the center including (but not limited to) The San Angelo Symphony, National Broadway Tours, guest speakers, comedians, San Angelo Broadway Academy, Dance Academy, Prep Academy, ASU, CHS and in 2021, the addition of graduations and UIL competitions were added to the docket.
WHY ARE THERE SO MANY NAMES?
We get this question often, and we chalk it up to the rich history of the project, and those who helped to make it happen.
We think of it like this, San Angelo Performing Arts Center (SAPAC) is the entire entity, like a family. Within a family unit, everyone has a first name that differentiates them from the rest. At SAPAC, the Murphey and The Stephens are part of the ‘family’ so to speak. At the same time, those who’ve watched us grow from the envision to the restoration and building have seen “SAPAC” can include the Coalition, Campus and Center. So the “C” in SAPAC can stand for many words. In essence, all are correct and define a certain aspect of who we are in the performing arts community. The Coalition is made up of founders and a founding Board of Directors. The Campus is inclusive of every space and the opportunities within, and the Center refers to the same idea, but more often is used when referencing the Stephen’s Performing Arts Center on Gillis Street.
Clear as a bell? You’ll get used to it if you are here long enough. And we certainly hope you are planning on it! Thank you for your interest in San Angelo Performing Arts Center. If you’d like to read more about the development of our beautiful campus, please visit the links below.
ADDITIONAL ARTICLES AND INFORMATION