When construction on Walt Disney Concert Hall began in 1992, the Roy and Edna Disney/CalArts Theater (REDCAT) was not part of the plans for the complex. As the project progressed, Roy E. Disney, son of Roy O. and Edna Disney—and at the time vice chairman of The Walt Disney Company—saw an opportunity for California Institute of the Arts (CalArts) to have a presence within this striking piece of post modernist architecture.
Roy presented his plan to the Board of Directors of The Walt Disney Company which approved the proposal to make a gift to both Walt Disney Concert Hall and the newly conceived CalArts project.
With construction of the Concert Hall already underway, the County of Los Angeles moved to include the new theater and gallery asking lead architect Frank O. Gehry to design the venue. Gehry had a genuine understanding of the CalArts mission: two of his children had graduated from the Institute and he was the recipient of an honorary degree from CalArts in 1987.
Roy Disney and his wife Patty personally matched the Disney Company gift for REDCAT construction, extending Roy’s history of more than three decades of support and continuing the work of his father, who had not only been Walt's partner in building The Walt Disney Company, but had also overseen the construction of CalArts' Valencia campus. Roy and Patty chose to permanently dedicate REDCAT to the memory of Roy's parents by naming it the Roy and Edna Disney/CalArts Theater. It is a fitting tribute: the names of Walt and Roy Disney will remain side by side in perpetuity.
Gehry's high-tech, utilitarian design for REDCAT's multiuse space realized CalArts president Steven D. Lavine’s dream of a downtown presence for CalArts. This extended the educational mission of the institute—a laboratory for visual and performing artists to experiment and redefine the boundaries among disciplines—to a professional venue in the heart of Los Angeles’ downtown cultural corridor.
For more information about CalArts, visit calarts.edu.