University dedicates new South campus arts complex

By Sarah Hetherington

The University held a dedication event for the new Reva and David Logan Center for Creative and Performing Arts Wednesday at Midway Studios to commemorate the $35-million gift from the Logan family. The funding, which was presented to the University in May last year, is the largest cash donation to the arts in Chicago to date and will help finance the creation and development of the center, slated to open in 2011, at a total projected cost of $100 million.

The center will be located on the University’s South Campus, at 60th Street and Ingleside Avenue, and will contribute to visual arts, performance and theater, music, and film on campus.

“There is a connection between the arts community at the University with that of the city of Chicago,” said President Robert Zimmer, kicking off the dedication. Zimmer suggested convergence as an appropriate theme of the creation of the new arts center, a topic other speakers at the event also echoed.

Larry Norman, deputy dean of the humanities and College for the arts center and an associate professor in the department of Romance Languages and Literatures, highlighted three specific kinds of convergences in his remarks.

“There is the convergence of theory with practice, scholarship with art-making,” Norman said. “There is also a convergence of different kinds of arts, specifically music, dance, cinema and media as well as art.”

Norman also highlighted “a convergence of campus and city,” which, like Zimmer, Norman saw as particularly important as a means of “tying together” the South Side, its schools, and the University.

In conversation later that day, Norman spoke frankly.

“We are remedying an incredible facilities poverty,” he said. “But this is also a time to build on the energy of the arts here.”

Norman said that over the past 10 years, he has seen the development of “an increasingly strong relationship of the University to the South Side.” He emphasized the attention paid to the relationship in the planning of the building, which has been placed decisively in South Campus as a means to “enliven and open it to the community in Woodlawn.”

“ is an important contribution architecturally to the city and the University,” said chairman of the Board of Trustees James Crown. “It is a wonderful and overdue change, and represents a confidence in the University.”

Calling the center a “mixing bowl of the arts,” Norman listed the five new public venues within the center, including two studio spaces for dance and theatre, a professional exhibition space, a film screening room, and a multi-purpose performance space that functions as a music hall.

Norman later commented that “an interdisciplinary approach to scholarship defines the University—I have always felt more like a member of the University than of a department.” Norman expressed the hope that the classrooms will also be open for non-arts classes, fostering an “interpenetration of disciplines.”

The Logan Center architects, Tod Williams and Billie Tsien, renowned for their creative use of space in buildings such as the American Folk Art Museum in New York, expressed gratitude for having the opportunity to create a multi-functional space dedicated to interdisciplinary arts.

“It is a space for those who know they’re devoted to the arts, and also for others to discover the arts,” said Tsien.

Williams spoke of the positive input and presence of the Logan family, as well as faculty members, administrators, and students.

“We won’t make many marks on the earth,” said Williams, “but we will make great ones.”

Daniel Logan, son of David and Reva Logan, concluded the event with more personal remarks, which he began by quoting Chicago urban planner Daniel Burnham’s dispensation: “Make no little plans.”

Logan paid homage to his father’s vision for the building, Zimmer’s leadership, and the designs of Tsien and Williams, which are currently in the pre-schematic phase, to be completed by late spring or early summer, according to Norman.