Arts committee proposes new approach for campus arts facilities

Since the University announced last year that it was setting aside plans for a Peter Eisenman-designed arts center whose cost was estimated at $45 million to $50 million, an Arts Center Committee has been quietly studying ways for Emory to meets its arts-related needs in a more cost-efficient way.

Arts Center Committee Chair Rosemary Magee, associate dean of Emory College, led a presentation and discussion of a feasibility study the committee has been preparing at the April 9 Faculty Council meeting. The committee's membership includes the chairs of the music and theater studies departments, and the directors of the film studies and dance programs. Magee said the committee is hoping to gain the support of groups such as the Faculty Council for its arts proposal.

Unlike the Eisenman plan, which called for construction of a single structure (larger than almost any current Emory building) near the corner of Clifton and North Decatur roads to house all of Emory's arts programs, the Arts Center Committee's plan proposes a more decentralized "arts village" approach that includes adapting existing buildings for arts programming needs as well as constructing a new facility. Magee estimated the plan's cost at $25 million-$30 million, just over half the cost of the Eisenman plan.

The committee's three-point proposal, which Magee said is still evolving as the committee goes through the process of presenting it to various campus groups, calls for the following:

*Constructing a new building on the original arts center site and developing an outdoor arts commons area: Magee said the new $25-million, 60,000-square-foot building would include a primary performance space open to all the arts programs (music, theater, dance and film), specialized instructional spaces, rehearsal areas and classrooms and an indoor commons. The outdoor commons area would be located on the current site of Annex B, which is used by theater studies as classroom and performance space. The area is located behind the Rich Building, which will be vacated in 1997 when the business school moves to its new building.

*Adapting the Rich Building and the Burlington Road Building (part of the former Emory Baptist Church) to address the needs of arts programs: The result would be 30,000 square feet of space for offices and classrooms, a multi-use performance studio, and some practice and support areas. The committee's preliminary cost estimate is $2.3 million.

*Continuing to use some existing spaces to meet specific performance needs: This would involve the continued use of Glenn Memorial Auditorium for large-audience events and organ recitals; the continued use of Cannon Chapel for some events; and limited use of the recently renovated Performing Arts Studio (formerly the Emory Baptist Church sanctuary) for smaller-audience events. Support for student theatrical groups also would be provided.

Committee member Sarah Boykin, project manager for the Performing Arts Studio and Burlington Road Building projects, said the committee's plan presents "an opportunity to provide the identity and presence that Emory's arts programs deserve."

"This proposal meets the needs for the arts programs that we see as most important," said Magee. "We will move quickly to ask the University to allow us to move forward with the formal design process."

--Dan Treadaway

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