METRO/Haley Ryan Fred and Elizabeth Fountain at Tuesday's announcement.

Fred Fountain said his family’s $10-million donation to establish a new performing arts school is a message to government that creativity is worth supporting.

On Tuesday, philanthropists Fred and Elizabeth Fountain announced their largest donation ever to launch a new school of performing arts at Dalhousie University.

The school will build on the combined departments of theatre, music and costume studies by creating a visiting artists program, more scholarships, outreach and mentorship opportunities in the city.

Separate from the donation, Fred Fountain announced the university’s commitment to refurbish the arts centre.

“If you … look at the practice spaces in the basement with the concrete walls that were all the rage in 1970-whatever, those things look kind of worn,” he said.
“They’re not … the most inspiring spaces to practice or to rehearse.”

Fountain, chancellor of Dalhousie, said his family waited to announce the gift because they wanted to find a project that was meaningful to them and had “far-reaching benefits” beyond the university.

Sarah Deller, an English and theatre student at Dalhousie, said knowing there are people who support her studies is “really beautiful and overwhelming.”

“Hearing the amount really just took me aback. It was great,” Deller said of the donation.

Warda Limaye, a music and neuroscience student, said it’s “due time” the university is receiving this funding, and echoed Deller’s excitement about crossovers with music and theatre departments.

“It’s just going to open up so many opportunities for collaborations, especially between students,” Limaye said.

Nova Scotia’s provincial and municipal governments also “should support the arts more than they do,” Fountain said during the Dalhousie Arts Centre event.

“It wouldn’t take much more funding to make a big difference.”

Activities for the performing arts school will begin next fall, and the new arts centre is expected to be finished in July 2014.

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