By Gary Nelson for East Valley Tribune
The forlorn site of Mesa’s last downtown new-car dealership is on its way to becoming one of the biggest cultural attractions in the American Southwest.
But the spectacular façade of a world-class concert hall will be only part of the story. Within the campus, cutting-edge research will examine how music can mend a broken mind. Students will learn performing arts from the best in the business. And if the founder’s vision holds true, sorrowful souls will find balm for their troubles in a venue whose very name conveys solace.
That name: Consolari.
The Latin word was chosen by Christi Worsley to convey the true purpose of her grand vision: Healing, consolation, relief.
Worsley and her husband, Bob, who serves as a state senator from Mesa, have worked nearly five years to bring Consolari to fruition.
The most daunting aspect is financial. At the outset, the Worsleys estimated they needed to raise $150M in private donations. That has now risen to $200M.
That kind of money doesn’t come from donation jars and car washes. The Worsleys have specifically targeted wealthy people across the country as potential patrons, while pointedly telling them Consolari is not meant to be a mere plaything for the rich.
In past interviews, Christi Worsley has said those who can afford admission to the auditorium will be asked to do so. Once inside, they will enjoy a majestic venue modeled on classic European architecture and capable of accommodating 400 or more singers as well as a symphony orchestra.
Outside the hall, concerts will be shown on a 7KSF digital screen facing Main Street. That speaks to the project’s aim of bringing music to the masses.
In addition to the main auditorium, Consolari will include other indoor performance halls, an amphitheater, a rose garden dedicated to the memory of the Worsleys’ stillborn grandson as well as other gardens and lawns, and retail/restaurant space.
Each performing venue, according to Consolari’s website, will be “equipped with cutting-edge recording capabilities to capture and distribute the magical moments created in Consolari’s halls.”
Further, Christi Worsley said, “ASU Preparatory Academy and Mesa Public Schools have been working closely together to create a performing arts school as part of the Consolari campus.”
The healing aspect of Consolari will come directly from a resident music therapist working with patients suffering from a wide range of ailments, and the Worsleys hope to engage researchers looking into the power of music as a means of combatting autism, dementia and other afflictions.
The facilities would occupy 10 acres vacated in 2014 when AutoNation moved the former Brown & Brown Chevrolet dealership to Gilbert.
Site changes and shifting demographics led to a dramatic design overhaul at the suggestion of Randy Vogel, who is director of theaters at the Mesa Arts Center.
Using the retractable fields and roof at University of Phoenix Stadium as a model, Worsley asked her architects and acousticians to design a hall with multiple uses – 2,000 seats for high-end concerts, an additional 500 seats for Broadway, opera and ballet performances, and the ability to accommodate 1,000 seats on a convention floor for lectures and other events.
The Worsleys are working to raise an initial lead gift of $30-$50M. They hope to open in December of 2021, four years after the original target date.
The site, at least, is firmly in hand. John Graham, Consolari’s board chairman, bought the former Brown & Brown property last year.
The land is near the Mesa Arts Center, which features four performance halls anchored by the 1,600-seat Ikeda Theater.
Read more at East Valley Tribune.