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President Taylor Randall and Dean John Scheib unveil portrait of John and Marcia Price. Photo: Jeff Bagley



Step into the new John and Marcia Price Theatre Arts Building today and you will hear singing in the halls. While warming up for class, student performers and designers chat about upcoming performances and dream up new collaborations. Faculty passing through give an extra note or tell students about a local show.

In PTAB, as it is lovingly called, the U Theatre community is set up for success. Equipped with spacious studios, modern design labs, and well-appointed costume and prop shops, this place is built specifically so theatre, and those who pursue its study, can thrive.

It wasn’t always this way. Just a few years ago, Department of Theatre classes were spread across several far-flung buildings, often in retrofitted rooms that weren’t quite right for rehearsal or design. Students and faculty trekked from space to space, making it work –– as is the artist’s way.

As John and Marcia Price and their family could see, this was a situation ripe for an upgrade. If the arts are to truly flourish on campus, they must have spaces that not only serve changing student needs but invite the public to join the party.

Building 73, once the home of the law school, “had good bones,” John Price recalled. Its low profile and mid-century style were worth preserving. With a lifetime of expertise in real estate development, John knew that the right upgrades and touches would give it new life. In 2019, their landmark $3.5M gift made the dream real, ushering in a new era for the performing arts at the U.


Images courtesy of Price family.


Images courtesy of Price family.

For the family, the building also carries personal significance. Both U alumni, John and Marcia first met at a Spudnut shop (now Osteria Amore) on 1300 East just a block away. Their son Steven was born at 268 University, just across the street. “Converting the building for the arts brought back memories of where we started, and where we are finishing,” John Price said. “Whenever we look at it now, we remember the beginning of our marriage and family.”

Throughout the Price’s legacy of innumerable contributions including service to community organizations, arts and education have remained top priorities. A love for the arts stems from early memories and is central to their family culture.

John Price was just a young boy when his family fled Nazi Germany. “Of the things my father hurriedly packed were paintings,” he said. “He took them out of the frames and rolled them up in scrolls to take with us as we escaped. For my mother, it was antique crystal and candleholders — things that had more of an intrinsic value than monetary value.” Many of these precious items are still displayed in their home.

Price ended up at the University of Utah after a summer field course while studying engineering and geology at City College in New York, where his family had ultimately settled. Falling in love with the mountains, he decided to stay. Deeply focused on being economically stable, his aim was to finish his degree as quickly as possible and begin earning a good living.

Serendipitously, while practicing with the wrestling team in a gymnasium space shared with modern dancers, he was approached by Shirley Ririe and JoanWoodbury who convinced him to be a lifter for their dances. This, he says, was his introduction to the arts at the U. “It became a very pleasing recreation for my structured mind of work. We developed a lifelong friendship, and we have supported Ririe-Woodbury [professional dance company] for years.”

Marcia Price built her life around beauty, creativity, and “the universal language of art.” As a young girl drawn to paintings, music, and dance, she has taken every opportunity to serve the arts in her beloved home state. Marcia’s board service includes Utah Symphony | Utah Opera, University of Utah College of Fine Arts, the National Committee for the Performing Arts at the Kennedy Center, and the National Foundation for the Advancement in the Arts. As Chair of the Utah Arts Council, she worked tirelessly to establish the ZAP (Zoo, Arts & Parks) tax that sustains Utah’s cultural organizations.

Perhaps one of her deepest connections is with the Utah Museum of Fine Arts, where she is currently board chair. In 2001, John and Marcia were forefront in the completion of the award-winning Marcia and John Price Museum Building. Most recently, they established an endowment supporting the UMFA’s executive director role.

Steven, Deirdra, and Jennifer, John and Marcia’s children, are continuing their parents’ legacy through their own community service and leadership.

“Growing up, the culture in our family was to give back, keep it local, and do it while you are here,” said Jennifer Price-Wallin, who is herself former chair of the College of Fine Arts Advisory Board. Deirdra Price echoed, “We were always surrounded by art. You develop into a culture of not just wanting to collect or view it but be a participant. It’s always been in the ether of our household. You should give back your time and resources to help the organizations you love be the best they can be.”

The University of Utah is fortunately one of the organizations the Price family loves. Steven Price, founder and president of Price Real Estate and U trustee, consistently advocates for more space for art on campus, giving the public abundant opportunities for connection. “To make our city livable, we need art in the public space. We need art everywhere,” he explained. “Arts are the ultimate state of who and what we are as humanity.”

The Price Theatre Arts Building, and its lovely new adjacent outdoor amphitheater, illuminate their stalwart commitment to this promise. “You can’t have too many facilities, and you can’t have too much art,” Marcia Price emphasized. “This is just one more way to add to the wonder and beauty of education, the University, and the State.” ▪


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