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By Kristen McLeod Posted: May 12, 2017 9:15 a.m.

Ilana van der Merwe is looking forward to being back on stage at the renewed Darke Hall
Ilana van der Merwe is looking forward to being back on stage at the renewed Darke Hall Photo: U of R Photography

Ilana van der Merwe says one of the happiest days of her life was when she picked up her cello at the age of five. “I remember actually making a sound,” she says. “It was amazing.” Now, she is immersed in the world of performing. “I am the happiest when I am on stage.”

Van der Merwe has spent many hours on the stage at Darke Hall. “I am also part of Do It With Class, a theatre group for young people, and I was so fortunate to appear in two musicals in Darke Hall.”

There are many stages for performers in Regina, she concedes, “and I have performed on many of them. None offer the beautiful space like Darke Hall.” She smiles. “Not one of them has turned sound into music as happens when I perform onstage at Darke Hall.”

She now is $1 million closer to being back onstage at Darke Hall.

An anonymous donor has brought the University $1 million nearer to the $3 million needed to properly restore Darke Hall.

“We are thrilled to accept this donation that will help us preserve Darke Hall,” says Dr. Vianne Timmons, President and Vice-Chancellor of the University of Regina. “This donor recognizes the significant cultural value Darke Hall brings to our community, and shares our commitment to restoring this space so that it can continue to be a premier vehicle for education, production and performance of music and theatre.”

The gift is an indication of just how much the University community cares about its historic buildings.

“This gift is a significant milestone in our fundraising campaign,” says Timmons. “Given the amount of work required to restore the aged building, we are looking to raise approximately $3 million to complete the project. I know that the people of our University community, who have been so supportive, will step forward and help us accomplish this goal.”

Another $2 million needs to be raised in order to transform Darke Hall back into a first-rate performance venue that can serve the community by showcasing professional and cultural performances in a historic venue that has been updated to meet contemporary technical standards.

Darke Hall has historically provided important space for students from the Conservatory of Performing Arts and community groups to perform.  

Announced in 2011, the College Avenue Campus Renewal Project is the University’s priority capital fundraising project. It is aimed at restoring and preserving the historic CAC, enabling it to continue as an economic, educational and cultural hub for the city of Regina. 

“It was one of the best days of my life when I was allowed to rehearse and perform with the Conservatory Orchestra in Darke Hall,” says van der Merwe. “I was only eight years old and even at that young age I felt the magnitude and honour of being entrusted with rehearsing in such an amazing historical building.”

“My family and I are forever grateful to the anonymous donor who has brought the University $1 million closer to properly restore Darke Hall,” van der Merwe says.