GLEN ELLYN – As part of the opening ceremonies for College of DuPage’s new McAninch Arts Center, one of the school’s most famous alumni will take its stage.
Jim Belushi, who graduated from the college in 1974 and grew up in Wheaton, will return to the school Saturday, with his improv group The Chicago Board of Comedy.
“When I go back, I guess there’s always some kind of pressure to perform after all these years,” Belushi said in an email to Suburban Life. “There is also always a great deal of excitement and joy. I love College of DuPage. Those teachers changed my life.”
The comedy group will give two performances. The first, at 6 p.m., is a MAC Madness fundraising event to benefit the College of DuPage Foundation, the John Belushi Scholarship Fund and other center-related programs. At 9:30 p.m. the show will be open to the public.
The evening marks the first official performance at the center after a 14-month, $35 million renovation – the building’s first update since it was built 25 years ago – which was funded by a $168 million referendum area voters passed in November 2010.
The space now boasts improved acoustics, a new art gallery and classroom equipment, a coat check and a full service bar.
McAninch Arts Center Director Diana Martinez said the renovation created a professional atmosphere in the theater.
“To be able to work in such a gorgeous facility and professional facility is really a treat,” she said. “You’re not just sitting in a black box.”
Martinez said the center will serve as an ambassador to the community for the college and an entry point to other services the school provides, such as classes, job fairs and lectures.
She said the college hopes to host a free summer concert series this year, in addition to existing student and professional programming to give the public more opportunities to enjoy the space.
The center is part of a number of capital development projects in recent years, including the school’s Homeland Security Education Center and library, said Development Vice President and College of DuPage Foundation Executive Director Catherine Brod.
Development since the referendum has doubled the amount of scholarship money the foundation has awarded, tripled the amount of donations it has received and increased the number of college donors by 150 percent, she said, and she believes the new space will only grow those numbers.
“The cultural arts are a window to the community, one of those places where we can really develop our message and give back to the community through the wonderful programs that we are able to help fund at the new center,” Brod said.
John Belushi Scholar finds success
Chicago actress and College of DuPage alum Robyn Coffin, known for her recurring role as Cindy Herrmann in "Chicago Fire" and area theater productions, was a John Belushi Scholarship recipient during her time at the school.
She said without the scholarship, she likely wouldn't have been able to attend college.
Now, she will return as part of the gala event fundraiser Saturday.
She credits her time at the college for her ability to hone her craft at a young age.
"It's very exciting. I think it's really great that they've invested the time and money into the facility," she said. "The theater program is so good and so valuable, I just appreciate and like seeing that they are putting the money in, because that's so important."
Jim Belushi and the Board of Comedy will perform two shows Saturday at the new McAninch Arts Center at 425 Fawell Blvd.
The first will be held at 6 p.m. as a fundraiser for the College of DuPage Foundation, the John Belushi Scholarship Fund, The Cleve Carney Art Gallery and Endowed Art Fund, the New Philharmonic Fund and the MAC General Fund.
Tickets cost $250.
Tickets for the 9:30 p.m. performance start at $44.
For tickets, call 630-942-4000 or visit www.AtTheMAC.org.