Long envisioned as a critically important element for Folsom Lake College, the visual and performing arts center was initially conceived as a facility to instruct, develop, and guide talented students to become actors, musicians, dancers, visual artists, and behind-the-curtain technicians. The scope and size of the Center expanded significantly with a 2003 feasibility study which validated the need for a facility that could also serve as a regional arts center for the greater community.
In 2004 the project proposal approved by the Los Rios Board of Trustees was submitted to the California Community Colleges Chancellor's Office for final funding approval in the 2005-06 budget year. Construction of the $50 million project began in July 2008 supported by a State Educational Facilities General Obligation Bond, Local Measure A Bond, other District resources, and donations to the Folsom Lake College Foundation.
In February, 2011 the Center opened as "Three Stages at Folsom Lake College" and by the end of its second full season it had already attracted over 300,000 patrons to its offerings. In August, 2012, the Los Rios District Board of Directors announced the renaming of the facility to the "Harris Center for the Arts," honoring Chancellor Emeritus Brice Harris who, during his tenure, oversaw a doubling of the size of the District, including the development of Folsom Lake College. He, together with then President of the College Thelma Scott-Skillman, was perhaps most responsible for seeing the vision of a Regional Performing Arts Center for the community realized.
Today the Center hosts over 400 public events per year, attracting over 150,000 patrons annually.
In its first two years of operation, the Harris Center for the Arts had already earned four notable awards:
Community Impact Recognition
The Harris Center for the Arts won the Community Impact category in the Sacramento Business Journal's 2010-2011 Real Estate Projects awards. According to the Journal, “The successful collaboration of campus and community has resulted in a regional educational and economic powerhouse that provides a world-class teaching laboratory for the students and faculty of Folsom Lake College. The project will also generate as much as $3.5M in revenue for the City of Folsom, boost local business for hotels and restaurants, and provide a much needed venue for regional and national performing arts groups.”
Project of the Year Recognition
In August, 2011, the Harris Center for the Arts was recognized as the Project of The Year by the Region Builders association for the Sacramento region. Representing ten major industries, Region Builders identified the Harris Center as the award recipient because of its massive community impact, beautiful design, construction and innovative elements. This project will have a lasting impression on the construction industry for many years. It is a valuable asset for both the industry and the surrounding communities.
The marketing effort at the Harris Center for the Arts was recognized with top honors from the International Association of Business Communicators, Sacramento, winning first place Crystal Awards in both the brand and marketing communications categories. Described by the judges as “superb in every way,” the awards were given for the marketing effort launching the Harris Center. IABC/Sacramento is a local chapter of IABC International, a 13,700-member worldwide organization with 111 chapters.
Arts Management Excellence Recognition
In October, 2012, the Arts and Business Council of Sacramento recognized the Harris Center for the Arts with its "Arts Management Excellence" award for demonstrating significant achievements in this area since its opening. In giving the award, the Council noted that, "in a relatively short period of time, an incredible destination point has been created, bringing arts, culture and entertainment to the eastern section of the Sacramento region."