Earlier this week, the College began phase one of the new Gordon Center for Creative and Performing Arts project. The center, planned to be built at the southern gateway to campus, will be a key part of Colby’s ongoing efforts to make the arts a more central component of the student experience as well as part of life in Waterville.

“We’re excited to initiate the groundwork for this project, which has been discussed for decades,” said Vice President of Planning Brian Clark. “In a couple of years, this new center will provide our students and faculty, as well as the community, with exceptional venues to create, perform, and engage with the arts.”

The first phase, now underway, includes a major road project, landscaping, and construction of a multi-tiered parking lot.

Aerial overlay, showing the first phase of the project.

 

The center, planned to open in the fall of 2023 where the Mary Low parking lot is currently sited, will bring together cinema studies, music, and theater and dance in one location. It will serve as a creative laboratory for the performing arts and disciplines across the curriculum.

“We are very much looking forward to being under one roof, rubbing elbows with our collaborators on a daily basis, and being inspired by ideas that can flow from day-to-day interactions,” said Associate Professor of Music and cochair of the Music Department Yuri “Lily” Funahashi, who has been involved in the faculty and staff working group helping with the center’s design.

In addition to Funahashi, the working group also includes Theater and Dance Technical Director John Ervin, Associate Professor of Music Jon Hallstrom, Associate Professor of Theater and Dance Annie Kloppenberg, Associate Professor of Theater and Dance Jim Thurston, Associate Professor of Cinema Studies Steve Wurtzler, and others.

With insights from the group, the center is being designed to be a highly collaborative and multidisciplinary space that will incorporate multimedia and interactive technologies. “The center, with its innovative arts spaces and technologies, will be the first of its type in our region and establish Colby as a leader in arts education,” Funahashi said.

Fundraising efforts for the 74,000-square-foot center continue. Trustee Michael Gordon ’66, Trustee Marieke Rothschild P’16 and her husband, Jeff Rothschild P’16, and John Lyons ’85, P’22 and Susannah Gray P’22 are among those who have generously supported the project thus far.

All the spaces in the Gordon Center, a three-level building, will be flexible in design and used to accommodate a variety of activities. A large performance hall with a capacity of 300 people or more—with flexible staging—will be the signature space of the Gordon Center, located on its first floor, along with a dark room with full lighting control, a sandbox studio, an arts incubator, and performance and office spaces. The second floor will have technical and performance spaces, a bright studio, and additional office spaces. The garden level, or the ground floor, will house a film studio, music practice spaces, and more offices.

“The Gordon Center is not just for students who already study the creative and performing arts,” emphasized Funahashi. “The building, with the open forum connecting all the major spaces, will be welcoming to everyone, and we hope that with the glass walls inviting visitors to have a peek at the creative process, they will be encouraged to stay and engage more fully with the arts.”

In this first phase, clearing the ground for the project, a new parking area will be constructed behind the existing one. The traffic pattern around the Gordon Center will also be revised as part of efforts to turn Colby into a more pedestrian-friendly campus.

The Gordon Center is part of Colby’s larger set of art investments both on and off campus. The Paul J. Schupf Art Center and the arts collaborative, both on Main Street, are underway in downtown Waterville. “This is a major statement from the College about its continuous commitment to the arts and creativity,” said Clark, “not only for its students but the entire community.”

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