The Renaissance Center in Dickson, Tenn., has become a part of Freed-Hardeman University, thanks to The Jackson Foundation which had owned and operated the center since 1999. FHU took ownership of the building in November 2013. In addition to providing the center for Freed-Hardeman, the Jackson Foundation has committed to providing funding for the next two years.
The center, located at 855 Hwy. 46S in Dickson, is a state-of-the-art facility for the fine arts, performing arts, media production, technology and education.
FHU and Nashville State Community College have agreed in principle for Nashville State to continue offering courses at the Renaissance Center, according to FHU President Joe Wiley. He and Nashville State President George Van Allen have met and are working on a plan for NSCC to offer lower division, undergraduate courses at Dickson. Freed-Hardeman is planning to offer upper division and graduate courses at the site beginning this fall.
According to C.J. Vires, FHU vice president of academics and enrollment management, FHU will offer courses leading to three degrees: Registered Nurse to a Bachelor of Science in Nursing, a Bachelor of Business Administration degree in management and a Bachelor of Science leading to elementary education licensure. At the graduate level, FHU/Dickson will offer a Master of Science in mental health counseling, a Master of Arts in teaching and a Master of Education in instructional leadership. Online programs will include a Master of Business Administration, a Master of Education in curriculum and instruction, a Master of Ministry, a Master of Arts in New Testament and a Master of Divinity.
The university selected these programs based on extensive market analysis done by Fletcher Rowley, an advertising agency. Residents of Dickson County, Davidson County and other surrounding counties were polled. In addition, online surveys of area members of churches of Christ and Dickson County businesses were conducted.
Officials from Freed-Hardeman and the Jackson Foundation executed documents Nov. 15, 2013, for the immediate transfer of the property, which had been approved by a unanimous vote of both governing boards.
"When we first started exploring opportunities to expand, we never imagined we'd be handed the keys to a state-of-the-art facility that's less than 15 years old," FHU President Joe Wiley said. "This is a transformational event in the history of our university. The Renaissance Center is the answer to a lot of prayers."
"This is a red-letter day in the life of The Jackson Foundation and, our board believes, in our community as well. The opportunities that will flow out of this partnership are almost beyond counting. We're not only creating a new path to a college education for the people of Dickson County, but we're also bringing in new jobs, new investment and new residents," said Doug Jackson, president of the Jackson Foundation. "This deal is a cornerstone on which our city can build for decades. Our organization could not be more proud of what we've accomplished here."
Bringing Freed-Hardeman to Dickson is the fulfillment of a long-term strategic goal of both organizations. From day one, the Jackson Foundation had made it a top priority to recruit a four-year university to the city and county of Dickson. Likewise, the board of Freed-Hardeman University had been actively pursuing opportunities to expand into Middle Tennessee.
Freed-Hardeman University will continue the various community programs of the Renaissance Center and to maintain the artisan market, according to Vires. "We are very excited about our ongoing discussions with artisans and teachers to ensure that these programs continue. The Renaissance Center has a tremendous history of providing rich cultural opportunities for those in Dickson and throughout middle Tennessee, and we want to continue to provide those opportunities where it is possible and where there is community interest," he said.
Community choir and Kindermusic programs are continuing. "I am excited that Freed-Hardeman is partnering with me to continue to provide the four community choirs at the Renaissance Center," choral director Chris Greene said. "The opportunity to sing in these ensembles brings people from different backgrounds, ages and communities together," he said.
Choir member Steve Moore agreed, calling himself "thankful" that the programs will continue. "The choral programs bring so many different people together as well as beautiful music to our lives," he said.
The university is also working with the Renaissance Players' board of directors to arrange the next theatre season. "Our board is working diligently during this transition period to provide ongoing, quality community theatre productions for Dickson and the surrounding area," said Jon Kopischke, board president.
In addition, Vires noted, "The Artisan Market will continue to be open Monday through Saturday. FHU plans to maintain the arrangements already in place with artists who have current items for sale in the market. We will also be reaching out to other artists throughout Tennessee who might have interest in showcasing their works in the market." The Artisan Market is one of the state's largest venues for purchasing items produced by Tennessee artisans.
The Jackson Foundation created the Renaissance Center in 1999 as its signature project. Designed as a fine arts and technology learning center, the facility, which cost $18 million to build plus $7 million for fixtures, furniture, equipment and technology, includes 110,000 feet of classroom space, conference rooms, film and video production studios, theatre areas, offices and more. The center offers a wide variety of academic and artistic classes, as well as the CyberSphere Digital Theater for live performances and planetarium shows.
Facility rentals and school field trips will also continue, according to LeAnn Polk, events coordinator of the Renaissance Center. "Many events are already scheduled for 2014," she said, "and we are continuing to book new events."
The schedule of programs is available at http://www.rcenter.org. To schedule an event or to inquire about community programs at the Renaissance Center, individuals may contact LeAnn Polk at firstname.lastname@example.org or 615-740-5503.