It’s a phenomenon that’s happening all across the country and has been for a while: the folks living in suburban cities want all the amenities of an urban core, and that includes cultural institutions such as theaters and auditoriums. But for a long time, there has been a notable lack of a landmark venue on the other side of Portland’s western hills. In March 2022, that all changes, when The Patricia Reser Center for the Arts debuts in downtown Beaverton, fulfilling a grassroots dream that can be traced in some form back several decades.
“Our vision is not only to entertain but also to transform,” explains Executive Director Chris Ayzoukian, who brings extensive experience from his 17 years with the LA Philharmonic. “The hall is so unique because it’s a beautifully crafted, intimate venue, and it really speaks to our vision about bringing performers, audiences, and community members from diverse backgrounds together.”
Before the shows begin, it’s important to understand how the stage was set (or built, rather). The Reser, as it’s colloquially known, is a $55 million public-private project funded through a hotel tax paid by visitors to the area and by private funds, including a lead gift of $13 million courtesy of Pat Reser, the board chair of locally owned and operated Reser’s Fine Foods. As the hall’s namesake, she has been heavily involved in the undertaking since the beginning and is also currently serving as the chair of the board of The Reser.
In 2017, a capital campaign kicked off, ultimately raising an additional $12 million in gifts and pledges from more than 960 donors across 18 states. Ground broke in November 2019, and despite the increased costs and hurdles of the pandemic, the project was able to progress safely.
“Pat’s refrain throughout the process was, ‘This is not just a stage,’” says Ayzoukian. “The stage is beautiful, but it’s more than that. Our goal is to leverage connections and create dialogue between people. The arts have the ability to do that.”
When it opens, The Reser will become the cultural soul of the city, a place for arts education and outreach that’s accessible to all. Inside the Mainstage Theater, you’ll find room for 550 guests (350 on the ground level and 200 in the balcony) in a close but comfortable setting without a single bad seat in the house. An on-site public art gallery will feature Pacific Northwest artists and the occasional traveling exhibit. Workshops and master classes will be hosted in The Lab and other meeting spaces. During business hours, the public lobby will be a great spot to bring lunch or read a book, and out on the plaza there is potential for summer concerts.
As the first of its kind to be built from the ground up in the Portland metro area in more than 30 years, the state-of-the-art, world-class multidisciplinary performing arts center will be utilized dynamically. Reser Presents, the flagship series, will showcase a variety of genres, bringing in talent from all over the world for everything from orchestral performances to film screenings and perhaps even comedy. It will also be a resource for local professional and community groups to rent out for shows.
“We will be many things to many people, and we will be here to serve different parts of the community, from performances to corporate meetings to educational classes,” Ayzoukian explains. “There is a real beauty in that.”
Nestled adjacent to the attractive shops and restaurants at The Round, The Reser sits just steps from the Beaverton Central MAX Station and the increasingly vibrant restaurant row of Downtown Beaverton. This location is key; though the center will primarily serve Washington County, the aim is to have the entire metropolitan area (via the red and blue lines), plus Oregon, engaged with its programming.
“The site is interesting. It has this frontage along the creek on one side, and on the other it’s urban, interacting with the buildings around it,” Ayzoukian says. “It straddles this line, and it does so beautifully.”
There’s an intentional feeling of osmosis between The Reser’s surroundings and its interior, designed by Opsis Architecture and built by Skanska. It’s meant to elevate a sense not only of place, but of being present in the moment. Floor-to-ceiling windows fill the foyer with natural light, and Douglas fir elements evoke a beaver dam throughout. “The one thing that’s important in a performing arts center is when you enter, your senses ideally are heightened, so that you are ready to experience what you’re about to see in an open way,” Ayzoukian says. “Our hall does that really well.”
From the facade to flourishing performances, The Reser represents an open invitation to explore the arts in your own backyard. To learn more about The Reser, visit thereser.org and sign up for the mailing list.