WEST VALLEY CITY — The world of Utah Theatre Lovers felt shock waves yesterday when West Valley City Government announced that at the end of the 2024 season the very popular West Valley Performing Arts Center will be closing its doors. This decision has been made without consulting the management at West Valley Performing Arts, the Utah Performing Arts Community, or the West Valley Community at large. Please see this quote from Vanessa Olson, Theatre Program Manager and Co-Executive Producer at West Valley Performing Arts Center:

On the same day we announced our standing as the one of the Top 3 Performance Venues in the Salt Lake Area, it was with heavy hearts that West Valley Arts announced the permanent closure of the West Valley Performing Arts Center at the end of the 2024 season. This decision came from directly from West Valley City Administration and City Council after an apparent evaluation of the costs associated with the repair and upgrades of the facility as well as upcoming expenditures that are expected elsewhere in the City in 2025.  There are no plans for a future Performing Arts Venue.  

Since its inception, the West Valley Performing Arts Center has been a cultural cornerstone, providing a platform for creativity, expression, and artistic excellence. For four full seasons has seen unprecedented growth and support. West Valley Arts has produced multiple award-winning performances, productions, and events at the West Valley Performing Arts Center including over 30 Broadway World Regional Awards, 7 Hart Awards, Best of SLC nominations, Best of Salt Lake runner-up, and two-time Best of State award winner. Numerous amazing actors, musicians, and performers have graced its stage, enriching the lives of audiences and artists alike.  Crew members, designers, directors, staff, and everyone that it takes to create an amazing theatre experience have our heartfelt thanks and overwhelming feeling of love and support.  You are who have made this place shine. You are who made this dream a reality, and we hope there will be a future for us.  

We at Utah Theatre Bloggers are shocked by this decision. The work that is presented at West Valley Performing Arts Center has been some of the greatest in the valley and is commonly featured in our year of excellence posts each year, with some stand out shows like their Sweeney Todd being personally one of the best I have ever seen. Additionally, community councils are to be concerned about what is best for the community, and the production of West Valley Performing Art’s In the Heights taught us more about community than any production I had seen in my 13 years as a writer for Utah Theatre Bloggers.

As president of this organization and as a member of the American Theatre Critics Association, I have had the privilege of seeing theatre around the country. Representing the theatre community in Utah has been my pride and joy because of the community that we are. Taking away a home like the West Valley Performing Arts Center, with little to no explanation other than “structural damage”, leaves a lot of questions unanswered and a lot of frustration that will not be easily quieted.

My own organization has at any moment in time 30 volunteer writers who give their time, energy, and talents free of charge to document the importance of theatre in our community. Most productions we see in this state (our blog alone documents around 250 productions a year, which is not even close to the full number of productions mounted in Utah each year) are full of unpaid labor, which bring in revenue, tax dollars, restaurant goers, and ticket sales to the communities surrounding them. There are also countless organizations that give to arts organizations to keep their funding going. There are of course paid jobs, talented people, and skills that will look elsewhere when and if this plan is put into place.

Has there been any discussion about what could be done to save this building? Has there been any outreach to granting arts foundations? Has there been any analysis of the amount of revenue brought in by the arts? I am ready and willing as UTBA president to come to the table with the statistics of my readership, the amount of interest in theatre in Utah, how it compares to the nation, and how we are a shining example for the arts. This is a tragic choice for the community and one that will not look good for the record of leadership in West Valley City.

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