The Project

Since 1963, the Hilberry Theatre has been a vital part of the Wayne State University landscape. The theatre provides a training ground for actors, designers, stage managers and theatre managers—a place where they can hone their craft and grow from talented artists to skilled professionals. Now, there is a project that will further solidify Wayne State's reputation as an artistic leader. Wayne State University will enhance the growing and vibrant area just south of campus by creating the Gateway Performance Complex, a $65 million performance complex for theatre, music, dance and arts-related events. 

As part of the complex, the current Hilberry Theatre will be renovated to become the Gretchen Valade Jazz Center (GVJC), a high-caliber venue for music and dance performances. The 200-seat GVJC will offer ample seating for parents, patrons, donors and community members for dance events.  The renovated space also will enable the dance program to feature master classes and lectures.

A fresh approach

The Hilberry Gateway will herald a new approach to theatre at Wayne State. Faculty members have unanimously approved a move away from repertory theatre toward a model that allows for greater variety, better serves students, and reflects regional theatres across the nation. A new curriculum in musical theatre, for example, will create a series of performances that blend dance, music and theatre. And for the first time, students in the Hilberry program will live together in a dedicated learning community. The Thompson Home, a Victorian building across from the new complex, will be transformed into a unique living and learning environment, augmenting students' social and educational experiences while fostering a sense of community in the university's performing arts programs


  • A New 350-seat main theatre on the corner of Cass and Forest
  • Full-thrust stage with appropriate wing space and a fly system
  • New dressing rooms, make-up rooms, green rooms and production accommodations
  • New audio and visual booths will bolster the performances, allowing state-of-the-art audio, video and lighting technology during production
  • New office space located within the complex for Administrative purposes
  • A modern café will be a highly visible and energetic space where guests mingle before and after events, during intermissions and beyond
  • Patron lounge will allow invited guests to relax and socialize before the show
  • A gallery showcasing the incredible history of the Hilberry, with a variety of artifacts, photos and memorabilia, will be another gathering place

Gretchen Valade Jazz Center

Gretchen Valade Jazz Center

In December 2015, Wayne State announced a major philanthropic investment in support of the Gateway project with a $7.5 million commitment from Gretchen Valade, noted philanthropist and chair of the Detroit Jazz Festival Foundation. The primary portion of her commitment—$5 million—will restore and update the current site of the Hilberry Theatre, which will be renamed the Gretchen Valade Jazz Center (GVJC). To date, Valade has gifted $9.5 million to the project.
The GVJC will be an active venue that will draw an array of audiences seeking the very best in music, dance and theatre. It will host up to two dozen external jazz events as part of the Detroit Jazz Festival, while 50 dates reserved annually for Wayne State’s Department of Music will feature student performances and recitals, faculty performances and related events. 

The GVJC also will increase visibility for the dance program, providing a high-caliber venue for public performances. The 200-seat space will offer ample seating for parents, patrons, donors and interested members of the community. In addition, the space will enable the dance program to feature master classes and lectures.

Detroit's new destination for the arts

The Gateway Performance Complex will be a destination for residents and visitors alike. More than a place for theatre, the complex will feature a constellation of opportunities for artistic pursuit and appreciation. Support for the Gateway project will help ensure its fruition and the continued strength of the arts at Wayne State University and in Detroit.

"You can tell merely by the way the air feels that something has happened, that what you’ve created has changed something in you and in someone else." Annie Keris M.F.A. in Acting College of Fine, Performing and Communication Arts
Annie Keris

Annie Keris M.F.A. in Acting College of Fine, Performing and Communication Arts

Hilberry Gateway

Alison Piech Linn, aplinn@wayne.edu
Director of Major Gifts
College of Fine, Performing and Communication Arts
5104 Gullen Mall Detroit, MI 48202