Dancing Dollars: Campus Performing Arts Centers Cash in Staging Extravaganzas, Spectacular Events and `Dirt' Shows

By Taylor, Ronald A. | Black Issues in Higher Education, December 14, 1995 | Go to article overview

Dancing Dollars: Campus Performing Arts Centers Cash in Staging Extravaganzas, Spectacular Events and `Dirt' Shows


Taylor, Ronald A., Black Issues in Higher Education


Dancing Dollars: Campus Performing Arts Centers Cash in Staging. Extravaganzas, Spectacular Events and `Dirt' Shows

The staging of Super Bowl XXX at Arizona State University's Sun Devil Stadium next month will mark an unlikely marriage -- a money-making bonding between the organizers of the world's most widely watched football game and the entrepreneurs who represent the world of higher education-sponsored fine arts.

For ASU to host this year's version of the nation's biggest annual floating sports party amounts to a double-barreled blast of irony.

First, the Super Bowl winds up in a state that, three years ago, refused to recognize the Martin Luther King Jr. national holiday.

Second, a key member of the production team organizing the Super Bowl is an African-American woman. Colleen Jennings-Roggensack, ASU Events Director, long ago left her peers in the dust in the drive to make fine arts productions a profitable venture in higher education.

The result of her ambitions has surfaced in Super Bowl pre-game planning sessions where she is helping to craft the Broadway show-like half-time extravaganza, deciding who sings the National Anthem and pushing hard to have a color guard drawn from the Arizona-based all-Black Buffalo Soldiers cavalry unit escort the American flag to midfield.

Although previous National Football League title games have been staged in college stadiums, this season's NFL championship contest, for the first time, is being produced by a group that includes a black representative of a high-flying enterprise -- campus performing arts centers that stage spectacular productions.

"My skill in coordinating performing arts, whether it is string quartets or `Phantom of the Opera' helps me understand the magnitude of the Super Bowl." says Jennings-Roggensack, ASU's liaison to the NFL, NBC and the army of corporate sponsors who) are producing the event in Tempe, AZ.

She is at the vanguard of performing center directors in higher education who assert that the only way to achieve the academic goal and cultural objective of their enterprises is to provide popular entertainment for the masses.

As a result of her success as director of the ASU performing arts center, students on campus will have a shot at winning a free ticket to the Super Bowl. A raffle will be held for 100 tickets earmarked for students only.

The Super Bowl is the second major sports event ASU will host in January. On New Year's Day, the Fiesta Bowl, worth $10 million to each team in the most lucrative of the college football bowl games, will also) be played at Sun Devil Stadium.

Shifting Focus

ASU leads the nation's higher education institutions in ticket sales for events as a direct result of the aggressiveness of its performing arts center.

According to a survey conducted by the Association of Performing Arts Presenters (APAP), concerts, recitals and scores of other events hosted by ASU sold more than 500,000 tickets under the aegis of its performing arts apparatus.

ASU's closest collegiate competition is Dartmouth, where 99,000 tickets were sold to performing arts events.

The staging of fine arts events -- once associated primarily with staging art exhibitions and appearances by string quartets and obscure dance companies -- is shifting focus, according to fine arts professors and performing arts center directors.

Instead of hosting events strictly in the name of art, institutions are now looking at the bottom line. "We have had to change our approach from looking at what we do as art for art's sake to realize that we have to look at the arts as a business," says Dr. Clarence W. Murray, Director of Theater. Norfolk State University.

Murray was talking about plans for the maiden year of operations of an $8-million performing arts center on the Norfolk State campus. The facility is to be named for former Gov. L. Douglas Wilder, who lobbied the Virginia General Assembly for the construction funds that resulted from a special state bond issue. …

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