River Campus Opening to the Public Oct. 21


Photo of Southeast River Campus

A significant new cultural resource for all of eastern Missouri and southern Illinois will formally open to the public Sunday, Oct. 21, in Cape Girardeau.


Oct. 12, 2007 – A significant new cultural resource for all of eastern Missouri and southern Illinois will formally open to the public Sunday, Oct. 21, in Cape Girardeau.

Situated on a bluff overlooking the Mississippi River, partially in buildings described by Mark Twain in his 1883 book “Life on the Mississippi,” and partially in 100,000 square feet of new construction, the Southeast Missouri State University River Campus will be dedicated at a 3 p.m. ceremony in the Donald C. Bedell Performance Hall with Missouri’s Lieutenant Governor Peter Kinder and Eighth District Congresswoman Jo Ann Emerson as the principal speakers.

Tours of the facilities, located at the corner of Fountain Street and Highway 74, will follow. Students and faculty of the Earl and Margie Holland School of Visual and Performing Arts will be performing throughout the various River Campus venues, including in the Wendy Kurka Rust Flexible Theatre, dance studio and the Robert F. and Gertrude L. Shuck Recital Hall. Refreshments will be served in a number of locations across River Campus throughout these afternoon performances.

The $51 million project, almost a decade in the making, includes four major performance venues for the University’s newly created Earl and Margie Holland School of Visual and Performing Arts. The new school includes the departments of Art, Music, and Theatre and Dance, and is headed by Dr. Gary L. Miller, associate dean and professor of music.

On the only Missouri campus dedicated solely to professional education in the visual and performing arts, the River Campus venues include the 950-seat Donald C. Bedell Performance Hall, the 200-seat Rust Flexible Theatre, the 205-seat Shuck Recital Hall, and a state-of-the-art dance studio with a custom-constructed “sprung floor” and a window wall with spectacular views of the river.

Other major features of the new facility are the Rosemary Berkel and Harry L. Crisp II Museum, which focuses on both art and regional history; the John and Betty Glenn Convocation Center; and studios for the University’s Department of Art.

The historic buildings on the site were constructed in three phases between 1843 and 1871 to house a Roman Catholic seminary and college operated by the Congregation of the Mission, commonly referred to as “Vincentians.” The seminary closed as an educational institution in 1979, but the restored structure now includes the Shuck Recital Hall, a gallery for the display of student and faculty artwork, rehearsal and practice rooms for musicians, an academic resource center, computer lab, and offices.

In his “Life on the Mississippi,” Mark Twain described the appearance from the river of two educational institutions in Cape Girardeau. Although he incorrectly credited a Catholic order other than the Vincentians with operation of the seminary, Twain wrote that “Cape Girardeau is situated on a hillside, and makes a handsome appearance. There is a great Jesuit school for boys at the foot of the town by the river. Uncle Mumford said it had as high a reputation for thoroughness as any similar institution in Missouri.”

And then, describing the first building constructed on the campus of what is now Southeast Missouri State University, Twain continued, “There was another college higher up on an airy summit–a bright new edifice, picturesquely and peculiarly towered and pinnacled–a sort of gigantic casters, with the cruets all complete.”

University officials say the new River Campus and Holland School for the Visual and Performing Arts have brought together these historic Missouri institutions and preserve for posterity one of the oldest higher education complexes west of the Mississippi River.

Dr. Kenneth W. Dobbins, president of Southeast, said the University has already experienced enrollment growth due in part to the River Campus project.

“The word about the River Campus has already gotten around,” Dobbins said, “as shown by the number of beginning freshmen with declared majors in art, music, theatre and dance. There are 102 such students this year, a 65 percent increase from last year’s 62 visual and performing arts majors.

“Further,” he said, “there are 441 majors in the Holland School of Visual and Performing Arts this fall – a 78 percent increase in the past six years.”

Some of those students will display their talents when “Big River,” the premiere performance in the Bedell Performance Hall, opens the Theatre and Dance season Oct. 24-28. It is a hugely popular musical adapted from the novel, The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn by Mark Twain. The Bedell also will be the site of touring performances, including Shaolin Warriors on Oct. 31, followed by the American Indian Dance Theatre on Nov. 3, the St. Petersburg Ballet: “Swan Lake” on Jan. 17, “Late Nite Catechism” on Feb. 1, “Ring of Fire” on Feb. 13 and Hal Holbrook in “Mark Twain Tonight!” on April 26.

Five concerts will comprise a Symphony Series at the River Campus this season, including a performance of Handel’s “Messiah” Dec. 7-8 by the Southeast Missouri Symphony Orchestra, Choral Union and University Choir, and a touring concert April 13 by the Saint Louis Symphony Orchestra in the Bedell Performance Hall.

A number of other student and faculty concerts and recitals are scheduled throughout the River Campus season.  A complete listing of events is available at  http://www.semo.edu/rivercampus/events/calendar.htm.

Just to the north of the Bedell, visitors will find the new 14,000-square-foot Rosemary Berkel and Harry L. Crisp II Southeast Missouri Regional Museum. The dynamic and interactive Museum contains 5,900 square feet of exhibition space and highlights regional history, painting southeast Missouri as a crossroads of geology and geography, of its early peoples, empires (settlers), its modes of transportation, the North and the South, religious sects, education and agriculture.

The Hainsworth Collection will mark the grand opening of the Crisp Museum and will be the first traveling exhibit to open in the temporary exhibition space in the facility at the River Campus. The exhibit, which includes examples of Hudson River School scenes, American Impressionism, Ashcan painters, and Regionalism, with a study by Missouri artist Thomas Hart Benton, will open in conjunction with the Museum’s grand opening on Sunday, Oct. 21. Dr. John Hainsworth is scheduled to present remarks about the exhibit at 6:30 p.m. Refreshments will be available and tours of the new facility will follow. The exhibit will remain on display through Jan. 13.

In addition to the traveling and permanent exhibits, the Crisp Museum has announced a lineup of free workshops to be held during the fall 2007 semester.

“We are offering a series of workshops that will stimulate visitors’ interest in the arts and regional history,” said Ellen Hahs, curator of education with the Museum.

The workshops will cover a number of topics, including Native American Family Day, pumpkin painting and carving, finger weaving, pine needle basket weaving, Origami, and cave art and shadow puppets.

Just outside the entrance to the museum is a mural created by artist Gary Lucy of Washington, Mo. The work of art, titled “Inland Waterways: The Highways of our Heritage,” reflects a river theme, with the mural’s centerpiece depicting the historic Great Steamboat Race of 1870 between the Robert E. Lee and the Natzchez. Lucy will make a presentation and provide remarks about his mural at 6 p.m. Oct. 21 in the John and Betty Glenn Convocation Center at the River Campus.

Also during Homecoming weekend, an exhibit titled One + One 2-Faculty and Alumni will open in the River Campus Art Gallery. This exhibition features studio work by Department of Art faculty at Southeast Missouri State University.  In addition, each faculty member had the opportunity to invite one of his or her former students to participate.  The resulting exhibition will showcase a diverse array of media and thematic content.

A public reception for this exhibition is being held in conjunction with the gala opening for the River Campus. The gallery will be open on Friday, Oct. 19, from 3 to 8 p.m., and Sunday, Oct. 21, from 4 to 6 p.m. The exhibit will remain on display through Nov. 20.