Gaertner Performing Arts Center

An interior view of the Payne Concert Hall shows off the buildings beautifully designed acoustic patterns. The Gaertner Performing Arts Center boasts 90,000 square-feet of usable space and houses dance, music and opera programs along with numerous other events. 

While Sam Houston State University is most prominently known for its criminal justice program, the fine arts program recently received some good publicity regarding the 4-year-old James and Nancy Gaertner Performing Arts Center.

The building was named the 13th most amazing campus art center in America in a list of the top-25 campus arts centers ranked by College Degree Search.

The Gaertner Performing Arts Center was ranked among art centers at several prestigious univerisities, including the University of Oklahoma’s Reynolds Center, Syracuse University’s Setnor Auditorium and the University of Notre Dame’s Debartolo Center.

“I find it remarkable that we have a performing arts center of this size in a small town in Texas,” said Andrew Noble, an assistant professor of dance at SHSU. “It’s one of the reasons why I took the job here at Sam Houston. I knew that this building was being built and I felt like there was support from the administration and the community for the arts. So, it was instrumental in me coming to Huntsville.”

Noble believes the Gaertner Performing Arts Center is a state-of-the-art facility that gives students, whether they are dance, music or theater majors, a chance to maximize their potential.

“One of the things that makes this space unique is that it was built and it really kept the arts at the center of the decision-making process and took care of each of the individual art forms,” Noble said.

“So, music got world-class accoustics and a hall that can hold 800 people, which is something that they needed. Dance got sprung floors and a beautiful dance facility with technological capabilities. It allowed us to do what we do in a healthy way and to train our students in the way we want to train them. Theater got the kind of facilities that they needed as well, with the extra space.

“They built it in a way that all three of art forms are around each other. It allows us to intersperse naturally and has created opportunities for more collaboration amongst the arts.”

Former SHSU President Dr. James Gaertner hopes the arts center will be able to lure both talented students and well-known professors from all around the world to SHSU.

“It’s my understanding, and I think I’ve been told correctly, that often you have to recruit these performing arts students much like you recruit athletes,” Gaertner said. “The types of scholarships that are available to them as well as the type of facility that they can perform in, play a large role in whether or not they choose to come to Sam Houston. I think this (recent publicity) will probably help and it might help attract fine faculty from across the nation.”

The Gaertner Performing Arts Center will present more than 75 events this spring to the public. The schedule for this spring’s events can be found at

College Degree Search’s 25 Most Amazing Campus Arts Centers list can be found at

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