On Saturday, Jan. 23, Hobart and William Smith celebrated the grand opening of the Gearan Center for the Performing Arts, an extraordinary 65,000-square-foot facility that brings together music, dance, theatre and media and society in a unified academic space for the first time in HWS history.
“The performing arts have long been a vital part of the liberal arts education available at Hobart and William Smith, and we are immensely proud to carry on that tradition with the opening of the Gearan Center,” says Provost and Dean of Faculty Titilayo Ufomata. “This incredible facility will give the performing arts a space designed to illuminate the remarkable academic and creative work taking place on campus. This is an occasion of great distinction for students and faculty, as much as it is for the entire HWS and Geneva community.”
Located at the heart of campus, the three-story building stands at the center of campus activity, aligned by a walkway that connects to the front steps of the Scandling Campus Center. Through the Gearan Center’s main entrance, the lobby invites those on the first floor to experience connections to theatre, music and dance by way of performance spaces as well as a film-screening room for media and society. The second floor features academic spaces for theatre and dance, as well as faculty offices. Primarily dedicated to music, the third floor includes classrooms, practice spaces and faculty offices. A tower and rooftop terrace are also signatures of the third floor. The entire facility is equipped with state-of-the-art technology and all of the performance spaces and classrooms are designed as smart rooms, enhancing the student-learning experience.
“The completion of this remarkable space could not have been achieved without the unwavering leadership of the Board of Trustees and the generosity of the many donors who so loyally supported this vision for the performing arts at the Colleges,” says President Mark D. Gearan. “Thanks to this collective effort, we are opening the doors to a dynamic space that’s designed to embrace and cultivate academic engagement for generations to come.”
The newly completed Gearan Center, which began construction in mid-2014, was made possible thanks to the vision of the Board of Trustees including the leadership of three Board Chairs, numerous faculty members, student leaders and the generosity of alumni, alumnae, parents and friends of the Colleges.
On Saturday, Jan. 23, at 1 p.m., guests gathered at the Gearan Center for a ribbon-cutting ceremony as well as dozens of dedications celebrating donors at their namesake spaces within the building. There was also a dinner for donors and guests hosted in the Scandling Campus Center that evening, followed by student performances at the Gearan Center.
As the expansive lobby is dedicated in his honor, Chair Emeritus of the Board of Trustees L. Thomas Melly ’52, L.H.D.’02 and his wife Judith H. Melly were recognized during the official ribbon-cutting ceremony. The L. Thomas Melly ’52 Lobby offers a warm, rich maple wood space, as well as a captivating wall designed with water-like features to emulate Seneca Lake with a mezzanine above a central staircase. Melly’s vision, leadership and longstanding contributions were essential in seeing the Gearan Center through to completion. The facility is the largest capital project in the history of the Colleges.
Other new spaces in the Gearan Center include McDonald Theatre named for Christopher P. McDonald ’77, L.H.D.’13; Deming Theatre named for former Board Chair and Honorary Trustee David H. ’75 and Jamie T. Deming; Froelich Hall for Edward A. ’55 and Joanne I. Froelich; Hilayama-Williams Family Ensemble Hall for Nozomi Hilayama Williams L.H.D.’14; Fish Screening Room for Trustee Cynthia Gelsthorpe Fish ’82 and John F. Fish; Welles Tower for Trustee Christopher S. ’84 and Catherine Whitney ’83 Welles P’12, P’15; Dance Studio gift of Rita Goldstein Ashton P’04, P’07, and Stine Terrace for Trustee Craig R. ’81 and Kathy Hay Stine P’17. Significant support for the Gearan Center also has been made available by gifts of the late Lloyd A. Wright ’50, Abigail P. Johnson ’84, Fidelity Foundation and New York State.
The Gearan Center’s design is consistent with the campus architecture and includes many classic elements such as warm bricks, elegant stone, and steep-pitched roofs crowned with natural Vermont slate. The facility offers modern touches such as large sweeping windows and an inviting glass entryway. The entire building has been designed to the highest acoustic standards that both shapes sound and contains it for the best musical experience. To uphold the Colleges’ commitment to sustainability and in an effort to reduce the environmental impact, the design and construction teams have ensured that the project achieves LEED Silver Certification or better.
Among the facility’s numerous venues and spaces are:
- Froelich Hall, a 1,800-square-foot recital venue primarily for choral, which seats 125 in tablet arm chairs. The room is equipped with a newly acquired Steinway piano.
- Hilayama-Williams Family Ensemble Hall, a 1,850-square-foot space acoustically tuned for an orchestra. The classroom seats 50.
- McDonald Theatre, a 2,450-square-foot space that hosts 140 seats for black box theatre. There are four catwalks, a sound and light booth, and a mezzanine that can be converted to a stage. The configuration is completely modular. A fully functional scene shop is connected directly to the theatre.
- Deming Theatre, a 5,000-square-foot sprung dance floor classroom that transforms into a 250-seat performance venue. The room features four catwalks, curtains, a sound and light booth, and a crossover.
- Fish Screening Room, an 825-square-foot film room that seats 60. The space features a theatre-quality projection, sound and screen. It can be used for teaching, as an activity space and as a community engagement space.
- Dance Studio, a 2,400-square-foot sprung wood floor dance classroom complete with barres and mirrors. The room functions as a dance rehearsal space, as well as a smart classroom and support space for dance performances. The room includes a beam signed by the Board of Trustees.
- Stine Terrace, a 700-square-foot outdoor space with views of Geneva and Seneca Lake. The terrace features tables and chairs for 20, as well as a “green” roof, celebrating the Colleges’ commitment to sustainability.
- Welles Tower, a 430-square-foot space, topped with a high ceiling seminar room surrounded by glass. LED lights will let the tower glow at night.
The Gearan Center also expands the Colleges’ role in the local and regional advancement of arts and culture. Members of the greater Geneva community will share in the new arts and events space through community programs, as well as those hosted by HWS. In partnership with The Smith Center for the Arts, large-scale performances will continue to be held at the Smith Opera House in Geneva’s downtown, where events such as the annual Koshare Dance Collective show have enjoyed great success.
The Gearan Center was designed by the acclaimed Cambridge, Mass.-based architecture firm, The GUND Partnership, and Welliver, of Montour Falls, N.Y., managed the construction.