University plans to unveil south campus arts center in 2010

By Ethan Frenchman

The University is in the process of fundraising and preparing plans for a new Center for Creative and Performing Arts. The center, expected to open by 2010, will provide a state-of-the-art facility for creative and performing arts on campus at a cost of about $62 million, as estimated in 2003.

The two-floor facility, tentatively spanning 182,000 square feet, would add three new black box theatres, renovated and expanded space for the Department of Visual Arts (DOVA), 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 center will be located at East 60th Street and South Drexel Avenue, adjacent to Midway Studios, the current home of DOVA.

“The center will allow for a flowering of activity that has had to struggle to exist,” said Laura Letinsky, chair of DOVA and a well known photographer.

Plans for the arts center began in 2000 following a call by then-provost Geoffrey Stone, a current professor in the Law School, for a report on the arts on campus.

The arts center was proposed to solve the need for both increased resources for the University’s many arts activities and greater collaboration among students in those activities.

Many arts organizations, among them University Theater (UT), DOVA, Cinema and Media Studies, UC Dancers, and the Department of Music, were active in recommending the construction of an arts center and continue to take part in the conversation today.

Many believe that the center’s greatest strength may be the proposed “arts alley.” The alley will be the main hallway of the center, providing access to a number of different arts activities, and is expected to have a cafe, open space, and possibly a glass ceiling.

The University’s current arts offerings are scattered across campus. Music is spread among practice rooms in Goodspeed Hall, recital space at Fulton Hall, and larger performance space at Mandel Hall. UT is run out of the third floor of the Reynolds Club, but rehearsals are regularly held in Cobb Hall and Bartlett Arts Rehearsal Space. DOVA’s location in the far southwest corner of campus has further emphasized the need for a more centralized location for the arts.

“Beyond new facilities, the real importance of the building is that it will bring together students and faculty interested in the practice of the arts as well as house the disparate arts media and their practitioners in shared spaces that will encourage collaboration and experimentation,” said Mary Harvey, associate provost of the University and chair of the Arts Planning Council. “We think the creative possibilities engendered by these interactions are unlimited.”

Many of those involved in arts on campus have expressed excitement for the center as a vital asset to the University’s art scene.

“It will be a nexus that enables informal and organic contacts that will certainly generate amazing collaboration, interaction, and conversation,” Letinsky said.

The Center for Creative and Performing Arts is a significant part of the University’s south campus plan. With a dorm south of the Midway slated to replace the Shoreland in 2008 and the construction of the arts center in 2010, the University intends to shift some of the focus of campus life southward.

While a conceptual plan has already been prepared, a contract to construct the center has not yet been made. In keeping with University policy, construction on the center will not begin until 85 percent of the funds are raised.

“Rather than these activities subsisting around the edges of daily life on campus, or curricular needs being met in somewhat arduous circumstances, the center would provide a forum, a place to work, think, and make—not as disparate activities but with the understanding that these are interrelated and integral to the rigorous intellectual and creative life of our amazing students,” Letinsky said.