The new Patricia Reser Center for the Arts in downtown Beaverton is about to fulfill a longtime request from residents: Build a central venue to enjoy arts and culture.

The $55 million project is located near the Beaverton Central MAX Station off Southwest Hall Boulevard. It includes a state-of-the-art 550-seat auditorium, art galleries, an outdoor plaza and rehearsal spaces.

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The Reser Center will celebrate its grand opening the week of March 8 with performances from the Zimbabwean acapella group Nobuntu and the legendary Count Basie Orchestra. The full schedule of musical acts for the 2022 season includes Broadway star Lea Salonga and a special Oregon Symphony performance titled “Be As Water.”

Chris Ayzoukian, executive director of the Reser, says this central arts hub will help Beaverton evolve as a city by pumping cash into the local economy.

“In addition to the cost of a ticket, people are buying, perhaps, an outfit to go out and they’re spending money in local restaurants time and time again,” Ayzoukian said.

Beaverton is Oregon’s seventh largest city, with a population of roughly 97,000 in 2020 according to the U.S. Census Bureau. And while art institutions like the Beaverton Symphony Orchestra and the Experience Theatre Project are already popular local favorites, they’re often overshadowed by downtown Portland’s more established arts offerings.

“We see [The Reser] as another way to draw Portlanders to the west side,” said Ayzoukian. “And to discover what’s happening in Beaverton — and it’s great to hear how more and more people are saying to me that Beaverton’s a cool spot.”

The project started as a grassroots effort in the late 2000s, when city officials and Beaverton’s former mayor, Denny Doyle, asked residents to suggest ideas for potential city improvements.

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Patricia Reser, prominent philanthropist and the building’s namesake, had served on the Beaverton Arts Commission during the 1990s. Back then, Reser believed an arts center could be integral to the natural evolution of an expanding city like Beaverton.

“Beaverton was really considered a bedroom town,” Reser said. “People lived here, they went to school here, but they basically worked somewhere else, But that started to change and over time, it grew from a personal fantasy to a conversation piece.”

Years later, when the idea picked up momentum, she worked with Mayor Doyle and city leaders to raise the necessary funds.

“If the city went in at about a third of construction cost, I would donate a third,” said Reser. “And then I would work with a professional fundraiser to raise the other third from the community.”

Reser set a goal of raising $100,000 in 100 days during the campaign’s final fundraising push. She reached out to the community for support and was overwhelmed by the response.

Executive Director Chris Ayzoukian explains the features of the Reser's new auditorium.

Executive Director Chris Ayzoukian explains the features of the Reser's new auditorium.

Nate Sjol / OPB

“We raised $600,000 during those 100 days, which tells me that people really wanted to see it succeed, and they’re ready for it.”

Reser’s personal contributions, combined with funds raised from the city’s hotel tax and private donations, eventually added up to enough capital to break ground and build the venue.

Reser also saw the project as a way to address shrinking access to arts education in local schools.

“It’s very troublesome to me that increasingly the arts are removed from public education as a cost saving device. I think it’s wrong,” said Reser. “There’s so much data to show how being involved in music is a developmental necessity to increase brain capacity, to develop the kinds of skill sets.”

Both Reser and Ayzoukian agree: The upcoming opening of the Patricia Reser Center for the Arts comes at a crucial time for Beaverton. Both believe that the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic left many residents feeling isolated, and so a certain sense of community was lost.

“Arts are one of the only things that can really break down barriers and bring us together,” Ayzoukian said. “And that’s our goal as well is to bring a sense of understanding and a shared human experience.”

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