Hobart and William Smith Colleges have retained the services of The Gund Partnership, a highly-regarded Massachusetts-based architecture and planning firm, to design a new academic building dedicated to teaching dance, music and theatre. The new Performing Arts Center is the final capital project of Campaign for the Colleges.
“The new Performing Arts Center is designed for tomorrow’s arts,” says Provost and Dean of Faculty Teresa Amott. “It is integrative, collaborative, inspirational, and it is designed to take our teaching, learning and performing to the very highest levels of excellence.” The new Performing Arts Center will bring the arts together under one roof, cultivating educational opportunities and fostering programs that cross disciplines in innovative ways.
The building, which is currently slated to be situated on Medbery Parking Lot, will also create a new Arts Quad and define a dramatic entryway to campus. “The placement will open up a whole new area of the campus for student activity,” says Trustee and Tri-Chair of the Campaign Steering Committee Maureen Collins Zupan ’72, P’09. “It’s meant to be a space for everyone.”
The 55,000-square-foot facility is the centerpiece of a $28 million project, being led by Assistant Vice President for the Performing Arts Initiative Mara O’Laughlin ’66. It will feature a soaring, open lobby that will link to five large, flexible performance and rehearsal spaces with adaptable seating and removable floor panels so that students and faculty can change the arrangements at will. The facility will also include much-needed sound-dampened rehearsal spaces, including large rooms for instrumental and chorale rehearals as well as individual rehearsal rooms. The builidng will also include a studio theatre with seating for 180 people, dance performance space with seating for 250 people, and offices for faculty. It will be fully-wired with modern technology, providing facilities for students interested in lighting, sound or stage management. Williams Hall, currently home to the music department, will also be renovated to house additional classroom space as well as prop and costume storage.
“We have worked on many ambitious buildings, but Hobart and William Smith are particularly pioneering as an interdisciplinary educational model,” says Laura Cabo, design principal with The Gund Partnership. “What we’ve planned is without a doubt one of the most forward-thinking arts spaces we have worked on; it will have the vitality of a mini-Lincoln Center.”
It should come as no surprise, then, that the chair of fundraising efforts for the HWS Performing Arts Center is Reynold Levy ’66, president of Lincoln Center, the largest performing arts center in the world. “Participation in the arts compels us to be inventive in our lives and critical in our thinking. It is at the heart of the liberal arts,” says Levy.
“Two of the most valuable benefits of a liberal arts education are the ability to examine the world from multiple perspectives and the ability to solve problems creatively,” says Professor of Dance Cynthia Williams. “With their emphases on different voices, personal expression, and commitment to excellence, the arts are perfectly situated to stimulate this kind of vision.”
Construction on the new Performing Arts Center will commence when fundraising is well underway. Roughly $4 million has already been raised for the project. The Colleges’ Board of Trustees gave support for the project last October when it extended the goal of Campaign for the Colleges from $160 million to $200 million. This extension of the Campaign goals also includes significant fundraising objectives for the Endowment and the Annual Fund, both of which support teaching and learning initiatives and financial aid.