“Providing a home for the performing arts is vital to the ongoing development of the University. The students at Emory are very serious about studying the arts. The arts are a part of a liberal arts education. They cannot be separated out.”

These words appeared in Emory Magazine ten years ago, when the speaker, Alice Benston, then chair of the Department of Theater Studies, was eagerly anticipating the opening of the Emory Center for the Performing Arts. Designed by renowned architect Peter Eisenman, the $50-million, 120,000-square-foot center was scheduled to be completed in 1996, the Olympic year. Arts faculty across the Emory campus spoke with excitement about the rapidly rising success of their programs, the creative energy of their students, and the added richness such a building would bring to the University’s arts community.

But ground was never broken. The Eisenman project was ultimately deemed too costly, too big, and too centered on public performance at the expense of academic utility, according to Magee. Instead, existing spaces were renovated and refurbished to meet the urgent needs of Emory’s arts programs, and community leaders went back to the drawing board.

A decade later, though, Benston’s words ring truer than ever: Emory students are still very serious about making the arts an integral part of their education, the University’s arts programs continue to swell, and a home for them has remained a pressing need. Although the collective vision for the arts at Emory was reshaped and refined, it never wavered. Now, the long-awaited Schwartz Center is at last beginning to hum with the sound, movement, and energy of students engaged in perfecting and performing their art.

Located at the busy corner of Clifton and North Decatur roads, the center promises to bring the arts into the life of the University as never before. With a state-of-the-art concert hall, dance studio, theater lab, and multiple classrooms, rehearsal spaces, and offices, the building is the first central home for the performing arts in Emory’s history and, as evidenced by its opening night performance, allows for unprecedented collaboration and innovation.

“Already, the arts programs are pushing beyond traditional disciplinary boundaries into unexplored, multidisciplinary terrain,” Magee says. “Now that there will be connected spaces and some shared areas, the collaborations will be even more vigorous. Students entering the Emory community will be able to see in a very visible and prominent way the centrality of arts to our lives. Whatever their major might be, they will more easily observe the connections to artistic endeavors.”

Since the cornerstone gift was pledged by the Schwartzes more than two years ago, Magee has worked closely with Hardman; Keira Ellis, director of arts and sciences development; and the center’s managing director Randy Fullerton, as well as a wide range of planners, faculty, alumni, fund-raisers, and donors to bring the vision to life. The Schwartz Center campaign brought the largest number of first-time gifts to an Emory College campaign from alumni and other supporters, which helped earn matching Kresge Challenge funds, according to Hardman. Ongoing efforts to support the arts at Emory include the seat naming campaign, which continues still; fund raising for the Daniel Jaeckel pipe organ being built especially for Emerson Hall; and the dance studio and lab theater are as yet unnamed.

“What has been really meaningful about this effort is the breadth of interest and involvement,” Hardman says. “It’s a statement of people’s interest in the arts at Emory and recognition of how important this project is, one that reflects the broad engagement of alumni but also students. The senior class gift has gone to the arts center for three years. And there have been generous community gifts as well. This will be not just a center for the arts but a place where the whole community comes together.”

• The Department of Music stands to gain the most from the Schwartz Center. > > >



© 2003 Emory University