By Glenn CashmanAssociate Professor of Music
I opened the updated “Strategic Framing Document” today with positive thoughts and bountiful good will. My heart began to flutter upon reading that there is a “pressing need to improve and expand our existing facilities in music, theater, and dance.” Hope was quickly replaced by frustration as I read that President Herbst is “being called upon to convene a working group” to determine how our facilities stack up against peers (see below, 2hrs work), to put together statistics regarding “the impact of the performing arts on recruitment, retention, campus culture, and the academic quality of liberal arts institutions.”
It would be monumentally embarrassing for Colgate if we need a working group to justify the importance of the performing arts in the liberal arts and if we yet again have to make a case for new facilities, especially considering that a performing arts center (PAC) was an unfulfilled part of the previous strategic plan. If this is deemed to be necessary, we might want to consider if in fact we are actually still a liberal arts institution. As one of the original liberal arts in academia going back to medieval times, Music is not a newbie, nor is Theater or Dance. We need first to commit to building a PAC, then form a committee to work out the details. The currently recommended strategy will only sweep the issue under the proverbial carpet for another decade or so. It is not a satisfactory response to a “pressing need.”
While there are many positive aspects exhibited in the current Master Plan, it seems to be fatally unbalanced when one considers the larger picture and the exclusion of a PAC in the facilities plan. A new PAC has been discussed at Colgate for around 25 years. It has been on and off various strategic plans during the various administrations, and there exists a multitude of documents written and compiled over the years on behalf of a new facility. In the meantime, most of our peer institutions have upgraded and/or built new arts facilities.
Connections between experiences in the performing arts and success in other fields are well known and documented. We will have increasing difficulty in attracting the best and brightest students who often are also strongly oriented toward the performing arts, whether or not they major or minor in music, theater or perhaps eventually in dance.
It seems to me that non-academic pursuits/areas have too much influence at our institution and on our campus culture. What better way to restore some balance than by providing useful, attractive performing arts facilities that are a prerequisite for greater integration and expansion of existing programs, a sense of community for the arts, and that will lead to more rewarding activities for the growing number of students who are slated to be relocated “on campus.”
[Info below cut & pasted from the various college web pages and lightly edited.]
EDWARDS CENTER FOR ART & DANCE (opened August 2013)
The 48,000-square-foot facility on Longfellow Avenue, which borders the campus, will provide a state-of-the-art venue for Bowdoin College students to study dance, painting, photography, sculpture, printmaking, digital media and other arts under the same roof for the first time.
VISUAL ARTS CENTER (1975) contains offices, classrooms, studios, and exhibition space for the Department of Art, as well as Kresge Auditorium, which seats 300 for lectures, films, and performances.
THE PEARSON-HALL THEATRE (1991) is the largest performing stage on campus and has a maximum seating capacity of 762. The theater can be divided in two and both parts used simultaneously, with a cinema (285 seats) on one side of a 75-ton movable soundproof wall and full stage area (425 seats) on the other. It also has two configurations, a standard proscenium, as well as a full thrust. Movies, plays, dance recitals, and lectures are typically offered in these spaces.
The EMMA ECCLES JONES CONSERVATORY (north addition) opened Fall of 2004. THE CONSERVATORY triples the volume of performance space available on the Westminster Campus.
The heart of the facility is the 285-seat VIEVE GORE CONCERT HALL which serves as an intimate environment for musical performances.
In addition, the DUMKE STUDENT THEATRE is a 150-seat, black-box theatre with stage and seating that can be arranged in any configuration.
THE CONSERVATORY also contains a rehearsal and recording studio, a technology lab, and multiple practice rooms. Together, the JEWETT CENTER FOR THE PERFORMING ARTS and EMMA ECCLES JONES CONSERVATORY house all campus music and theater classes.
THE NATALIE DAVIS ROOKE RECITAL HALL is one of the most active spaces on campus. On any given day, one might hear a student recital, a faculty recital, a guest soloist, or a chamber-music recital. The 160-seat hall boasts excellent acoustics — tunable with the touch of a button — as well as recording capabilities, a harpsichord, and a 9' Steinway concert grand piano. In addition, a generous backstage area includes a green room where students, faculty, and guest artists relax and prepare for performances. Students can reserve the recital hall for rehearsals and recitals.
Numerous concerts take place year round in the 250-seat BROOKS-ROGERS RECITAL HALL, along with all-college lectures, classes, and other events. The lower level holds faculty offices, an Artist Studio, departmental administrative offices, and classrooms.
PRESSER CHORAL HALL, Brooks-Rogers Recital Hall, and SHAINMAN REHEARSAL HALL, are located on the upper level. Thompson Memorial Chapel and other buildings on campus are also occasionally used for concerts. The $60 million '62 CENTER FOR THEATRE AND DANCE was completed in the spring of 2005.
KIRBY MEMORIAL THEATER was designed in 1938 by James Kellum Smith of McKim, Mead & White, with the help of S.R. McCandless, a theater designer. Kirby has since been upgraded to a state-of-the-art 384-seat modified proscenium house, with computerized lighting and sound equipment, a stretch-wire lighting grid, and a refurbished fly system.