Celebrations mark the grand reopening of Darke Hall

By University Advancement and Communications Posted: April 21, 2022 2:00 p.m.

Dr. Jeff Keshen brings greetings on behalf of the University on the occasion of the grand reopening of Darke Hall this morning.
Dr. Jeff Keshen brings greetings on behalf of the University on the occasion of the grand reopening of Darke Hall this morning. University Advancement and Communications

If Francis Darke was still with us he would certainly be applauding today’s grand reopening of the hall that bears his name. When construction began on Darke Hall some 93 years ago, Darke envisioned “a temple to the arts and a centre for cultural activity.” Thanks to the work of hundreds of people who contributed to the restoration of the theatre over the past 12 years, the grand temple has been restored to its former glory – and then some.

“I would like to congratulate all those who brought Darke Hall back to life and made today’s grand reopening possible,” said U of R President and Vice-Chancellor Dr. Jeff Keshen. “This was certainly no small undertaking, but thanks to so many individuals and groups – including our generous donors, Conexus Credit Union, the Government of Canada, architectural consultants, and construction partners – we have ensured that this jewel of a performance venue will serve our community and province for generations to come.”

When it was first unveiled in 1929, the Regina Daily Post reported that Chief Justice J.T. Brown declared Darke Hall as “a building so beautiful, inside and out, in its architecture that he who sees it must stand in admiration. Yet, it is not more magnificent or noble than the spirit of the donor in making the rich gift.”

Over the years, Darke’s gift began showing its age but thanks to resounding support from throughout the community, today the public can once again see for themselves the grandeur that has been restored to Darke’s temple to the arts.

Darke Hall celebration
Among those on hand for the grand reopening of Darke Hall was (l to r) Mark Borgares, Conexus Board Chair; Robert Hawkins, Regina City Councillor; Donor Lynn Goldman; Lisa Mitchell, Associate Vice-President University Advancement and Communication; President Keshen; and the Honourable Gene Makowsky, Minister of Advanced Education.
Photo by University Advancement and Communications

The six-year renovation project retains the aesthetic of the early 20th century building but includes modern upgrades such as a complete replacement of the HVAC and electrical systems, new lighting and rigging systems, new  sloped floor seating, improved sight lines, more accessible spaces, additional washrooms and better acoustics. A new atrium link between Darke Hall and Conexus Credit Union’s head office is a dazzling space that is fully accessible and can easily accommodate large public gatherings. 

“Preserving Darke Hall’s amazing history and building means that we can experience the space for decades to come,” said Christie Schultz, Director of the Centre for Continuing Education. “This means we can continue to develop and foster talent in our community and support rising stars in following their performing arts dreams.”

Thursday’s celebrations kicked off with a short program followed by an unveiling of Darke Hall’s new logo, along with tours of the renovated facility. The event also featured an announcement of a new management agreement with an arm’s-length, not-for-profit community board that will lease and operate Darke Hall for the years to come. The arrangement allows the University to retain ownership of the theatre but removes any operational costs to run Darke Hall. It’s also expected to help local community arts organizations with limited funds to access the world class facility.

Later today, Dr. Keshen will host the President’s Gala Reception in the newly created Darke Hall atrium,  followed by a Grand Reopening Concert  featuring performances by the Conservatory’s Parents/Kids Strings Group, Katherine Dowling, Do It With Class, Sâkêwêwak, Listen to Dis, Regina Symphony Orchestra and Jeffrey Straker.

Day two of the celebration takes place on Saturday, April 23 and features a community open house, facility tours and come and go performances on the main stage.

“We are delighted with the reopening of Darke Hall,” said Dr. Keshen. “This important renovation project has truly been a remarkable effort by all involved. There is great satisfaction and joy in ensuring that Darke Hall has been saved and indeed enhanced for future generations to experience and appreciate.”