University proposes Arts Center

By Carolina Bolado

A committee of administrators has chosen an architect for the future Center for the Creative and Performing Arts, which will be located next to Midway Studios. Hardy Holzman Pfeiffer Associates will design the center that will house facilities for visual, performing, and creative arts.

The architectural firm was chosen from a pool of 20 firms that bid for the project.

“We were most impressed with them,” said associate provost Mary Harvey. “They have lots of experience in all of the arts. We felt that they would listen well and we thought that they were practical-minded. They felt like Chicago somehow.”

Hardy Holzman have designed similar performing and fine arts centers at Georgetown, Boston University, Middlebury College, Texas A&M, and the University of Miami, among others.

Janel Mueller, dean of the humanities division, listed improvements to the visual arts and cinema studies facilities as the top priority. She also stated that University Theater (UT), which has been suffering with scattered and substandard facilities, and the music department, which is lacking rehearsal space, will both get ample space in the new center. In addition, a 500-seat theater is planned for the center.

Both Harvey and Mueller emphasized the importance of housing all art disciplines together in one center. “That’s what’s going to make this space exciting, that there will be some kind of interaction among the arts that hasn’t happened here before,” Harvey said.

Mueller expects that the cost of the center will be about $30 million, although she made it clear that this was simply a ballpark figure. About that much money is earmarked in the Chicago Initiative for the arts.

“We are extremely happy that we have strong presidential assurance that he [President Randel] will make this one of his many projects,” Mueller said.

The steering committee, made up of administrators, an advisory committee of administrators and students, and a student committee, will begin work with the architect on the plans for the arts center.

“This center is not a year or two away,” said Bill Michel, deputy dean of students in the University. “It’s probably more in the five-to-ten-year range.”

Because the committees are planning so far in the future, they have not yet decided on what specific facilities will be made available for students in art groups and classes or students who simply want to practice art on their own.

“This is the one single thing that I find most daunting with technology exploding: how do you predict the shape of media technology seven to ten years down the line?” Mueller said.

The completion of the arts center will force the University to re-evaluate the existing rehearsal and arts space.

“Mandel will remain our premier venue for a wide range of events. That won’t change. Neither will the Bartlett performance space. The UT space is a question mark,” Michel said.

Moving UT to the arts center would free up space in the Reynolds Club to relieve another problem–Recognized Student Organization (RSO) storage. “If UT’s primary location is the arts center, then it would make much more sense to have UT’s storage at the center, and that would free up storage for other RSOs,” Michel said.