Theater-lovers cheer as city vows to support West Valley Performing Arts Center

After an announcement of the closure of West Valley Performing Arts Center, residents celebrated as the City Council approved a resolution to help subsidize the performing arts and transfer control of the program to a nonprofit on Tuesday.

After an announcement of the closure of West Valley Performing Arts Center, residents celebrated as the City Council approved a resolution to help subsidize the performing arts and transfer control of the program to a nonprofit on Tuesday. (West Valley City)


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WEST VALLEY CITY — After an abrupt announcement of the closure of West Valley Performing Arts Center, residents celebrated as the West Valley City Council approved a resolution to help subsidize the performing arts and transfer control of the arts program to an independent nonprofit.

West Valley City announced on May 6 the center would permanently close at the end of the 2024 season "due to structural issues and the high cost of repairs" and said it was "necessary for the long-term stability of West Valley Arts."

Since that decision, dozens of community members, performers and theater lovers have rallied together to stop the closure. An activist group called Keep WV Performing was formed to find a solution to keeping the arts alive in the city.

On Thursday, the city said on social media the City Council will consider a proposal to keep the theater operating after this year by having current theater leadership leave city government in January 2025 to run the theater independently as a new organization.

"A lot of work is necessary to make this happen, but all sides are willing to roll up their sleeves to see it through," the city said.

Keep WV Performing said in a statement the West Valley Performing Arts Center theater management team proposed a "transformative partnership plan" to the city, "which promises to usher in a new era for the performing arts in the community and keep the beloved theater open and operating."

West Valley Performing Arts Center is currently run by the nonprofit organization West Valley Arts, which is led by City Manager Ifo Pili. With the resolution, West Valley Arts will be reorganized into an independent 501(c)(3) organization with new board members that will be announced later.

The independent organization will be in charge of all operations, marketing, fundraising and financial oversight of the performing arts center.

Meeting attendees cheered and clapped after the resolution was unanimously approved Tuesday night, ensuring the future of the theater.

"This change will allow for greater autonomy and flexibility in decision-making, ensuring the organization can adapt to the evolving needs of the arts community," Keep WV Performing said. The group said it is an "exciting new chapter" for the center and community.

The resolution acknowledges the "valuable contribution" the center has made to the arts community and said the city is committed to support West Valley Arts as it transitions to the community-based organization that will operate the center.

The city will provide a financial subsidy to the center during the transition through Dec. 31, 2025. The amount the city will provide as a subsidy was not listed in the resolution.

"The City Council's swift partnership with our community action group and theater leadership demonstrates their commitment to the economic health of West Valley City," said Kate Rufener, a founding member of Keep WV Performing. "We are grateful for their visionary choice to ensure the survival and growth of this vital public program."

City Councilman Lars Nordfelt said during the meeting the resolution doesn't limit the city from subsidizing the arts beyond 2025 if the council chooses to continue supporting it further. City Councilman Jake Fitisemanu emphasized the resolution also doesn't restrict the amount of funds the city can give.

"It says we are committing to work with this new organization and help support them," Nordfelt said.

Community support

During public comment period before the resolution was passed, several residents expressed their support for continuing the arts in West Valley City.

"Alongside other city programs, (West Valley Arts) deserves consideration for serving the residents of West Valley City for world-class theater, education and outreach programs, discounts for citizens, cross-generational enrichment, cross-cultural team building and a place for communities to gather and develop," Kate Rufener said.

Brandon Rufener said his family chose to return to West Valley City because of the diversity of programs offered in recreation, theater and cultural celebration. He said when Hale Centre Theatre left the city to move to Sandy, "Hale left West Valley City a gift."

Rufener said the City Council's duty is to improve the city.

"Is the city really better without a best-in-state performing arts program?" he asked. "I think all of you, deep down, know that it is not."

Longtime West Valley resident Mary Flitton said the city deserves to have a theater.

"Our heritage loved the arts and knew how important it was to the people of this valley," she said.

Performer Lauren Slagowski said the arts center is a "source of pride" for many in the city and many outside the city who frequent the theater.

Correction: A quote from Kate Rufener was incorrectly attributed to Brandon Rufener in a previous version.

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Cassidy Wixom covers Utah County communities and is the evening breaking news reporter for KSL.com.

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