SHERIDAN — What can a building do?

CTA architect Joel Anderson asked that question at a steel raising event held at Sheridan College on Tuesday. The event was held to recognize the stakeholders and donors who have contributed to making the Whitney Center for the Arts a reality.

But what can a building really do?

It can certainly protect and shelter people. It can provide space for people to gather and learn. But the officials from the Northern Wyoming Community College District, Sheridan College Foundation and Whitney Benefits who gathered Tuesday hope the new arts center will do so much more than that.

“Buildings are only as strong as the people who help build them, and create them and use them,” Anderson said. “With the Whitney Center for the Arts, we had a visionary group from the college and Whitney Benefits ask us the question, ‘How can you guys help students find their voice?’

“And how do we find a voice?” Anderson continued. “Artists are communicators. They communicate ideas; they express our communities; they express us as a people, as a society. And how do we design a building to achieve that?”

Anderson said the new arts center will encourage interdisciplinary opportunities, student-faculty interaction and program growth.

Construction began on the arts center in the winter of 2014 and is expected to be completed next fall.

The project includes 48,000 square feet of new construction and 12,000 square feet of remodeled space.

It is expected to provide cutting edge space for a variety of art disciplines as well as a state of the art concert hall. College officials have also said it will allow for an additional 75 students to participate in the visual arts programs and 125 additional students in the performing arts programs.

In 2014, Whitney Benefits donated $16 million to the college for the project, covering 100 percent of the construction cost. In addition, the Sheridan College Foundation continues to raise $4 million to equip the new center.

Following remarks from NWCCD President Dr. Paul Young, Anderson, NWCCD Board of Trustees Vice Chair Norleen Healy, Sheridan College Foundation President Cindy Shoop and Whitney Benefits President Tom Kinnison, board members, staff and students had the opportunity to sign a piece of steel to be used in construction of the arts center.

The steel was then raised and put in place by construction crews.