For the last 50 years, the Val A. Browning Center at Weber State University has been attracting famous performers such as Fred Rogers from Mister Roger’s Neighborhood, Ronald Reagan and John Denver.
The largest performing arts venue north of Salt Lake City, the Browning Center has hosted some spectacular shows, and many famous WSU alumni returned on Jan. 7 to take part in its 50-year anniversary celebration.
Christie Denniston, director of Marketing and Public Relations for the Lindquist College of Arts and Humanities, participated as a committee member planning the event. Denniston encouraged students and community members alike to come and enjoy the performance, noting that seeing this many performers of this caliber in one place will be a rare opportunity.
“These are individuals who many will probably never have a chance (to see), unless they travel to Broadway, or they are at the opera in Rome or something of that nature,” Denniston said. “And to be able to see them in your backyard for free is sort of a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity.”
For Denniston, this celebration isn’t only about performing arts at WSU and the famous performers that have walked the Browning Center’s halls, but also celebrating arts in the Ogden community.
“It’s really a celebration for the community to gather and celebrate this building and everything that happens in it,” Denniston said.
Many WSU alumni have made the Browning Center a tradition for their families. For those individuals, the Browning Center is a part of who they are because they pass it down from generation to generation.
Denniston said she spoke with one alumni who said she loves bringing her daughter to shows, and now she brings her grandchildren, too.
“It becomes part of the fabric of who we are and our tradition, which you don’t get with very many places,” Denniston said.
To say the Browning Center shaped Ginger Bess Simons’ life would be an understatement. WSU graduate in musical theater, Simons said the Browning Center isn’t just a place to perform, it was her second home while earning her bachelor’s degree. Simons said she has many fond memories of countless hours spent at the Browning Center.
“I think one of the craziest things people that go to school there will relate to is that you go there when it’s dark in the morning, and when you leave, it’s still dark.” Simons said. “I felt like I was always there!”
Nic Maughan, a senior studying piano, said venues like the Browning Center open up the community and enrich it in a way nothing else can. According to Maughan, performing arts centers like the Browning Center should be acclaimed for the way they help students and community members open up to new ways of thinking.
“Living, breathing works of arts and performance give us a sense of either who we’ve been, who we currently are or who we can become, and I think when we’re sitting in an audience seeing someone share their work with us, we can connect,” Maughan said.
Not only that, Maughan said performing art helps performers and audience members discover who they are.
“It gives us an opportunity to either grow with a new experience or revalidate for ourselves what we believe. We get to see and connect with other people. I think the arts teach us about who we are, where we’ve been and what we can become,” he said.