The Hobart and William Smith community and campus guests celebrated a momentous occasion on Friday, April 25, 2014 with the ceremonial groundbreaking of the Colleges' new Performing Arts Center.
Bringing together the Board of Trustees, President Mark D. Gearan, students, faculty and staff, alumni and alumnae and other members of the HWS community, the event formally launched the next phase of plans for the 65,000-square-foot facility. When completed in 2016, the Performing Arts Center will stand at the heart of campus and serve as a vibrant learning space for music, dance, theatre, and media and society.
Geneva City Manager Matt Horn talks with Hobart alum and actor Christopher McDonald.
"In our work to envision a new Performing Arts Center, we were driven by a desire to create an interdisciplinary academic facility that will privilege teaching, learning and performing, that will engage our students - whether as participants or audience members - and stretch their imaginations," said Gearan during his opening remarks.
With nearly $28 million already committed, the Performing Arts Center represents the largest capital project in the history of the Colleges. The facility will anchor the campus along Pulteney Street, uniting the Warren Hunting Smith Library, the Melly Academic Center, the Rosensweig Learning Commons, the Scandling Campus Center, Coxe Hall and the Hobart Quadrangle.
In light of those who have generously given their support for the Performing Arts Center capital project, Gearan recognized the foresight and contributions of Chair Emeritus of the Board of Trustees L. Thomas Melly '52, L.H.D. '02. He also credited the leadership of three Board Chairs: Current Board Chair Maureen Collins Zupan '72; P'09; Honorary Trustee Charles Salisbury Jr. '63, P'94, L.H.D.'08; and Honorary Trustee David Deming '75.
"One Trustee had a vision coupled with his commitment who brought his integrity and decades long engagement at Hobart and William Smith Colleges and he inspired others," Gearan said. "We all know we would not be breaking ground today without Tom Melly."
Zupan also offered remarks at the groundbreaking. "This new Performing Arts Center will give a much-needed home to four departments whose achievements have far exceeded their facilities," Zupan said. "It will place the performing arts solidly at the center of our campus. It will strengthen our ability to use the arts to prepare students to lead lives of consequence. It will become a new way in which we can differentiate the Colleges."
In celebrating the influence that the new center will have on current and future generations of students, four students - each representing one of the four academic areas that will call the new space home - also shared their sentiments. Giving remarks were: Jeffrey Matos '16, a theatre and psychology double major; Eva Touhey '15, a double major in biology and music; Jenna Davidson-Catalano '14, a double major in dance, and arts and education; and Steve Gemmiti '14, a media and society major and computer science minor.
As a current student who will benefit from the space during his senior year, Matos said he looks forward to the prospect of eventually performing in the theatre. "As an artist and a student, your investment in our work lets us know that what we are doing matters and that you believe in us and our future," he told those gathered.
Representatives from the design and construction management firms retained for the new Performing Arts Center were also at the groundbreaking. Acclaimed architecture and planning firm, The GUND Partnership, is rendering designs, and Welliver, of Montour Falls, N.Y., will manage the construction.
When completed, the brick building facade of the new Performing Arts Center will be consistent with the campus aesthetic and include tall windows, steep pitched roofs and a tower. Internally, plans for the academic facility include a sweeping, open lobby that links flexible performance and rehearsal spaces specially designed for theatre, music and dance. Adaptable seating will allow for the creation of spaces that can be changed to accommodate multiple types of productions and audience sizes. In its current form, academic space for theatre, music and dance will seat, respectively, 140, 120 and 250 audience members.
The facility will also include acoustically robust rehearsal spaces, recital halls, faculty offices and a film screening room. The building will be wired with the latest technology, providing facilities for students interested in lighting, sound or stage management.
Additionally, the Performing Arts Center will play a larger role locally and across the region. Members of the greater Geneva community will share in the new arts and events space through community programs, as well as those hosted by HWS. In partnership with The Smith Center for the Arts, large-scale performances will continue to be held at the Smith Opera House in downtown Geneva.
Photos by Greg Cotterill, Finger Lakes News Radio.