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Midland Living Magazine

Celebrating Permian Basin Arts

Wagner Noël Performing Arts Center and the Ellen Noël Art Museum - two creative paths to the future.


The Permian Basin’s arts scene has two reasons to celebrate in 2022. The Wagner Noël Performing Arts Center (WNPAC) celebrates its tenth year of bringing performing arts to the community. At the same time the Ellen Noël Art Museum (ENAM) unveils its remarkable plans for renovations and upgrades. Both Texas icons create a well-rounded West Texas future for the arts.

Lissa Noël Wagner continues the tradition of philanthropy learned from her parents and perfected with her late husband, Cy. She has dedicated her life to numerous worthy causes which have made an impact in communities and on the lives of others. Her mother, Ellen Noël, a generous patron to the arts community, is the namesake of the Ellen Noël Art Museum and a wing at the Museum of the Southwest. Noël-Wagner families have been long-time supporters of the Wagner Noël Performing Arts Center.

Wagner Noël Performing Arts Center

The WNPAC officially opened its doors on November 1, 2011. Offering state-of-the-art rehearsal and classroom space that attracts students from across the country to The University of Texas Permian Basin (UTPB) Music Department. But the performance hall not only allows for student use but also hosts over 120 national touring productions each year.

The Performing Arts Center reflects the love and support of its namesake donor. Lissa Noël Wagner, as a founding member and board member attends many of the performances at the venue and oftentimes brings friends and family. Recently, she shared her thoughts about this tenth year of fantastic entertainment.

 “Both Midland and Odessa, along with the Permian Basin community, have had the marvelous pleasure of attending Broadway shows and enjoying celebrity songwriters, singers, music: country-western, Latino, jazz, plus opera, ballet, comedians, children’s shows, acrobatic shows, and television shows, such as Dancing with the Stars, to name a few. All have been available here locally without having to board an airplane and spend the night in a hotel.” 

Mrs. Wagner leads by example, making time to be an active part of oversight committees for the venue. She attends many events and quickly shares how proud she is of the work being done by UTPB leadership and ASM Global’s venue management company.

“The community has to travel only a few miles to have fabulous entertainment in our own theater,” Mrs. Wagner continued. “Our entertainers have been our most outstanding ambassadors. Our staff is so gracious, the facility beautiful, the sound system unbelievably great.” 

Owned by UTPB, the Performing Arts Center was a vision of community and civic leaders in Midland and Odessa. Funds from the Texas Legislature, The University of Texas System, and private donors supported the construction of a facility that provides the performing arts and the development of the next generation of musicians through the University’s band, orchestra, and choir programs.  

“The overall experience has been dynamic from the opening night with Rod Stewart to the ten-year celebration with Jimmy Buffett,” Lissa Noël Wagner said. “It has and will continue to be a FAVORITE spot for so many. The fact that it is a leading educational center ensures it’s growth. With President Sandra Woodley‘s outstanding leadership, Wagner Noël will continue its impressive role. Thank you for the opportunity of letting me be a part of such a fun time.”  

Stephanie Rivas, General Manager of the Wagner Noël Performing Arts Center, said, “The Wagner Noël is special. With the support of Lissa Noël Wagner who cares so deeply for the arts, UTPB leadership and the patronage of so many in West Texas, the venue will continue to do great things.”
“It was an honor to be part of the planning, building, and opening of the WNPAC. It has exceeded our wildest expectations,” Lissa Noël Wagner added.

Ellen Noël Art Museum of the Permian Basin

Since 1985, the Ellen Noël Art Museum (ENAM) has served West Texas through art-exhibitions, education, and public programming. Sitting on the edge of the UTPB campus, much of the Museum’s current facility is original and reaching the end of its lifecycle (HVAC, electrical and plumbing). In order to maintain the standards necessary for the borrowing of artwork and exhibitions upgrading the facility to include things such as fire suppression is required. This has led to the decision to engage in a capital enhancement project. This investment will allow for the Museum to increase the scale and scope of its programming and to continue serving our growing community.

“In keeping with Ellen Noël’s legacy, our goal is to create a space in which people can gather and be inspired. This expansion will allow us to present major traveling exhibitions and collaborate with other cultural producers in West Texas.” states Sheila Perry, Executive Director. This expansion embraces the idea of building a little - achieving a lot. In the end, 36,000 square feet of flexible space will include a new media gallery that will transform into a 100-seat auditorium to support lectures, films, musical, dance and theatrical performances. The 500-seat community room will convert into a medium and two smaller sized spaces, which will be used as meeting rooms and classrooms.

Perhaps the most captivating addition will be the series of louvers that will wrap around new two-storied addition connecting it to the existing structure. This undulating, organic façade will transform the structure into a sculptural form. This louvered screen adds light, perspective, color, transparency, and motion. The system’s architectural beauty is apparent; however, the functionality of the louvered screen produces protection for the new glass enclosed classroom and lobbies from the West Texas sun.

The renovation also benefits the area’s economy. “The Perryman Group estimates that the construction renovation phase would lead to an increase in business activity in the Odessa area. The Ellen Noël Art Museum’s contribution to Odessa’s economy is key to diversifying our local economy both today and tomorrow.” explains Emma Valdez,  ENAM Marketing Manager. 
The Ellen Noël Art Museum is committed to serving and supporting its community through programs such as Art 2 Go, a curriculum-linked program for grade 2 students available free of charge to all ECISD elementary schools as well as five schools in Midland. It will be made available to all MISD elementary schools by 2024. ENAM’s Fine-Arts Connection, helps all schools in the Permian Basin meet the K-12 Texas Essential Knowledge and Skills (TEKS) standards for art. ENAM invests in our children and our future, bringing lifelong learning programs for all ages to West Texas.

Other Museum events include the upcoming 6th Annual West Texas Fest with Texas beer, wine & spirits tastings, local food trucks, live-music, axe-throwing, and everyone’s favorite, a cornhole tournament. Join in the good times on Saturday, September 24, 2022, in downtown Odessa. For more information on this event or ways to support ENAM’s capital enhancement project, visit its website: 

Tomorrow Together 

Both centers are gifts to West Texas communities and have become favorite spots for so many. Both reflect the love of art and the generous hearts of a mother and daughter. Together, the Wagner Noël Performing Arts Center and the Ellen Noël Art Museum are leading the creative path into tomorrow. †


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