Rose Wagner Performing Arts Center Marks its 25th Anniversary

Salt Lake County Arts & Culture

The Rose Wagner Performing Arts Center marks its 25th Anniversary this season. Join the celebration on Saturday, August 27 at a public Anniversary party presented by Salt Lake County Arts & Culture and The Blocks. Cap off the weekend at the annual Rose Exposed: BIRTHDAY SUIT[E] performance later that evening.

“From the day the Rose Wagner Performing Arts Center opened 25 years ago, it has been an active and vibrant artistic hub,” said Salt Lake County Mayor Jenny Wilson. “The venue is a key cultural asset in Salt Lake County and demonstrates the County’s ongoing commitment to arts and culture in our community.”

Today the Rose is the busiest Arts & Culture venue, hosting more 500 events each year, including dance, theater, film, visual art exhibits, and community events. The venue is home to five Resident companies, including Gina Bachauer International Piano Foundation, Plan-B Theatre Company, PYGmalion Productions, Repertory Dance Theatre, and Ririe-Woodbury Dance Company.

“The Rose Residency program offers direct support to these organizations, including priority booking and office and rehearsal space,” said Matt Castillo, Salt Lake County Arts & Culture Division Director. “This stability allows Resident companies to focus on their artistic and creative excellence, audience development, and organizational growth.”

The art at the Rose is not limited to the performing stages. To mark the 25th anniversary, Arts & Culture commissioned a new public art piece titled Shape Shifting from local artist Lenka Konopasek. This outdoor mural is on the west wall of the Rose.

The Rose was born from vision and necessity and is an example of all the right things happening at all the right times. In 1989, the County’s smaller arts organizations formed the Performing Arts Coalition, a nonprofit specifically dedicated to funding and building a permanent, right-size venue for creating, rehearsing, and performing. At this same time, Salt Lake County elected officials were committed to supporting a space for more arts organizations to create and present their work.

In 1994, the Performing Arts Coalition and Salt Lake County formed a partnership and made the decision to build a new performing arts center on 300 South. The chosen location had been home to the Wagner Bag Factory from 1913-1959, a company started by Rose Wagner and her family founded on mending burlap grocery bags. 

Rose’s son Izzi, a prominent Salt Lake businessman and philanthropist, visited the site on occasion and struck up a friendship with Linda Smith, executive and artistic director of Repertory Dance Theatre. This friendship was the catalyst for Izzi Wagner’s generous donation of land and funds to build the performing arts center. He named the venue for his mother Rose, to honor her hard work and dedication to her family. The venue’s larger theater is named for his wife Jeanne, and the Black Box is named for his sister Leona. 

At the 2001 grand opening of the Rose, Izzi dedicated the building. He stated that that his “successes – whatever they might be – were due largely to the powerful influences of Rose Wagner and Jeanne Wagner. I’m pleased to be able to share their memory with the community through this facility. I hope the Rose Wagner Performing Arts Center and the Jeanne Wagner Theatre bring half as much happiness to others as those two brought to me.”

Today, the Rose embodies the passion, creativity, dreams, hard work, and dedication of Rose Wagner and her family, as well as all the artists and community members that came together to create this remarkable venue.

Celebrate the Rose’s important anniversary with us on Saturday, August 27. The public Anniversary Party runs from 10 a.m. – 2 p.m. and is sponsored by Salt Lake County Arts & Culture and The Blocks. We’ll have live performances by 1520 Arts, Busker Bus Theatre, Jyoshsna Sainath with Nitya Nritya, and Warehouse 5 Drum Theatre Performances will be in the lobby and outside on the west side of the venue. Contribute to our community art piece and sign our 7-foot-high Anniversary card. Record your memories of the Rose for our Oral History Archive. Our recording booth will be open from 10 a.m. – noon.

Enjoy an evening out at the 11th annual Rose Exposed: BIRTHDAY SUIT[E] at 8:00 p.m. in the Jeanne Wagner Theatre. This hour-long program is presented by the Performing Arts Coalition and features new, short works by Gina Bachauer International Piano Foundation, Plan-B Theatre, PYGmalion Theatre Company, Repertory Dance Theatre, Ririe-Woodbury Dance Company, and SB Dance. Performance in the Jeanne Wagner Theatre. Tickets available online at saltlakecountyarts.org/events.

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