The LVUSD Performing Arts Education Centers (PAEC) in Agoura Hills and Calabasas kicked off their grand opening festivities Friday night in both cities.
The $18 million each identical facilities, located on the Agoura Hills and Calabasas high school campuses, were entirely funded through Measure G, which passed in 2006.
"I like to describe these as 'welcome to our new classrooms,'" Dan Stenosky, LVUSD superintendent, said at the Agoura Hills site reception. "This is a cultural community assett."
The gala weekend long festival entitled "LVUSD Festival of the Arts and Education: A Grand Opening Celebration" in Agoura began the evening with a donor reception and facility tour followed by performances from the Agoura High School music program.
Agoura High Principal Larry Misel, who is retiring at the end of this year, expressed his enthusiasm over the finished product.
"This is really designed as an educational facility, so kids are not only performing, they're learning everything they'll be able to use to go right out into the world to get a job," he said.
The debut of the program is a dream long held by former superintendent Don Zimring, who attended the celebration. "This was part of the vision we had backin 1996," he said. "It took us this long to get here but we never wavered ... I was hopefully one of its strongest, loudest advocates."
The center, designed by architect John Sergio Fisher, houses a 650-seat main theater and the smaller 'black box' for educational classes and smaller productions. The state-of-the-art facility will offer the school district theater arts education, cross-curricular instruction, virtual programs, lectures, live presentations and more.
In addition, the buildings are open for rental to outside groups.
"This will be a cultural hub where the arts and education will not only enrich the students but also the greater community," said Lesli Stein, school board president.
Theater student and senior Sydney Heller, a back-stage tour guide for the evening, said she feels fortunate to be a part of this program.
"With a lot of public schools across the country cutting back on arts programs, this is really a big deal for us, because it shows that our community really respects what we do," she said.
Another unique aspect of two district theaters is the opportunity for Agoura and Calabasas to join creative forces, according to theater manager Gilles Chiasson.
"I will continue to stress the notion that students from both communities will have an opportunity to perform at both venues, regardless of where they live," he said. "I don't see the rivalry."
Box offices at both sites will offer tickets to either theater. For program information and to purchase tickets, go to the PAEC website.