U of C nets $35 million gift

By Justin Sink

The University, long criticized for underemphasizing its arts curriculum, took a major step toward reversing that image Thursday with the announcement of a $35-million naming donation for the construction of a new arts center south of the Midway. The donation, made by Reva and David Logan (A.B. ’39, J.D. ’41) along with their sons and grandchildren, is one of the largest gifts in University history and, according to the University press office, marks the largest single cash gift to the arts in the city of Chicago.

“This is a historic gift that will have a tremendous impact not only on our students, faculty, and community, but on the future of the arts in Chicago,” University president Robert Zimmer said in a press release. “The opening of the Reva and David Logan Center for Creative and Performing Arts will give the University an unprecedented opportunity to pioneer new ideas and art forms by bringing diverse artistic disciplines and perspectives together in dynamic collaboration under one roof and establishing a site where intellectual inquiry and creative practice meet.”

The gift brings total fundraising on the project to nearly $40 million and, according to University administrators, should fast-track the arts center for completion by 2011.

“This gift provides an extraordinary opportunity to move the planning along quickly,” said David Greene, vice president for Strategic Initiatives. “We’ll now begin the process of the Board of Trustees deciding on an architect, hopefully by this summer designing and moving forward. And with such an important project to the University and with such remarkable architects involved, the building is sure to be very attractive to other donors, and we’re confident we can raise more money for this.”

The new facility, to be located adjacent to Midway Studios at East 60th Street and South Ingleside Avenue, would add three new black box theatres, renovated and expanded space for the department of visual arts, music practice rooms, rehearsal spaces for music and theater, a medium-sized film and lecture hall, a 350-seat performance hall, classrooms, and computer labs. The building is expected to cost $100 million overall, which the University hopes to secure entirely through donations.

“I have been, as a student and a staff member, engaged with the arts since I was in the College,” said Bill Michel, assistant vice president for Student Life. “I’ve been amazed at the incredible work our students create and have always believed that having a setup like this would provide the amazing opportunity to have our students work together, so I’m really excited what this gift means in providing those type of opportunities to our students.”

Members of the Logan family have served as active philanthropists in both the arts and academics, funding the Reva and David Logan Collection of Illustrated Books at the Legion of Honor in San Francisco and endowing a faculty position in investigative journalism at the University of California–Berkeley’s Graduate School of Journalism. According to the press release, the Logans have also financially supported the Chicago Arts Partnership for Education, Ken Burns’s jazz television series, and Duke University’s Jazz Loft Project. David Logan was also awarded the Illinois Governor’s Special Recognition Award for Distinguished Service in the Arts and Education.

“So many faculty members and students have been working so hard on this for so long, so this is a huge boost to morale,” said Danielle Allen, dean of the Humanities. “The donation process is a team effort. It takes staff in the development office that work on developing prospects and starting conversations with them. It takes work on the academic side…developing the concept for a center like this. And then, of course, it’s always really important for the president and the Board of Trustees to get involved.”

Administrators hope that the arts center will be a hub of student activity at the

U of C, addressing what a 2001 University report called “the absence of a clear sense of how fit into the University’s larger mission.” According to Allen, the center should increase the profile of the University’s arts programs and assist in a University-wide effort to improve application numbers.

“I think it’s so wonderful, especially for students entering in the fall—this gift means that this building will be part of their experience,” Allen said. “It should really increase our capacity and our ability to attract students passionate about the arts.”