Student arts groups use Bartlett rehearsal space

By Andrew Lamb

Campus arts groups have begun to use the new Bartlett Arts Rehearsal Space (BARS) despite lack of equipment. The new facility has been open for student groups since the beginning of the quarter.

“It’s part of a renovation which includes turning the former trophy room into a student lounge,” said Bill Michel, deputy dean of students.

The rehearsal space is part of three structural changes to Bartlett that will take place in the coming weeks. University Theater already holds classes there and schedules rehearsals for student-directed shows. The trophy room will also eventually be converted into a lounge area where students will be able to relax and watch television. The current football office will be used for offices for the Coalition of Academic Teams, which includes the debate team and the College Bowl.

University Theater and the Office of the Reynolds Club and Student Activities (ORCSA) are now sharing the rehearsal space, but it is available to all campus arts groups for rehearsals. “It will be ideal for productions that have lighter technical requirements,” Michel said.

The rehearsal space still needs renovations, most of which will not be complete for another few weeks. “Currently we haven’t put in the sound system. The necessary pieces are expected within three weeks,” said Timothy Banks, associate director of facilities and event services. “We just installed a moveable wall.”

The area also boasts a wooden dance floor that will provide space for dance groups on campus who are currently rehearsing in Ida Noyes Hall. “We produce a lot of dance,” said Heidi Coleman, director of University Theater. “Dance groups are already rehearsing in there.”

Coleman added that any performances done in the new space would have to respect the integrity of the floors. “Sets couldn’t happen because they would ruin the floor. The student groups would have to submit a request through ORCSA,” Coleman said.

How the space will be used is still to be determined by the arts groups on campus. “A lot of people want to use that space. It’s new, and nobody knows what to do with it,” Coleman said.

The creation of BARS was the administration’s response to a perceived need for more student performance space on campus. “There’s been a general demand on campus, but we’ve never been able to give arts groups as much space as they’ve needed,” Banks said.

BARS is part of a larger concerted effort to improve the availability and accessibility of arts on campus. Former Provost Geoffrey Stone appointed a study group of faculty and administrators in order to make recommendations about how the University should encourage the arts on campus.

The study group chaired by Douglas Baid, Harry A. Bigelow Distinguished Service Professor in the Law School, authored a report entitled “The Future of the Arts at the University of Chicago,” which makes several recommendations to the University for promoting the arts.

According to the report, facility availability on campus is a problem. The report pushes for the University to “use existing space more efficiently and more creatively.”

Other recommendations that have not yet been approved or financed include renovating both Mandel Hall and Midway studios for accomodating music, theater and dance groups on campus. The study group also asked for the creation of a new Center for Creative Performing Arts on 60th Street and Drexel Avenue.

In addition to more arts space, students have expressed the need for more lounge areas similar to the South Lounge and Uncle Joe’s Coffee Shop. “One of the things we heard was how much people liked the South Lounge and how much there is a need for more spaces like it,” Michel said.

“The Future of the Arts” also advocates the creation of a new arts quadrangle. The current campus Master Plan envisions turning the Young building, which currently houses both the facilities services and the University of Chicago Police Department, into a center for arts groups. The Smart Museum, the Renaissance Society, and Court Theatre would be complicit in a consolidated arts quadrangle.