Closing the Curtains on the Fine Arts Building

Closing the Curtains on the Fine Arts Building

Over the summer, the boxes stacked along the walls of the portables, filled with lab equip­ment, were moved to the new Science Center building, home to the Lyda Hill STEAM Insti­tute. However, the portables will soon house new tenants: the Fine Arts Department.

On Dec. 3, Eugene McDer­mott Headmistress Kim War­go announced to the Hockaday community that Nancy Nash­er ’72 and David Haemisegger had made a $6 million com­mitment to Hockaday toward the development of a new arts building – Phase II of the Centennial Center. And with this announcement, the Fine Arts department will start the packing and moving process into the Nucleus–as the porta­ble village was named–and be fully installed in their tempo­rary housing by the beginning of March.

The Nasher-Haemisegger Family Center for the Arts will be home to both the visual and performing arts at Hockaday and will house an art gallery with moveable walls in order to accommodate and custom­ize exhibitions, an outdoor amphitheater, a new Black Box Theater and new orchestra and choir spaces. In addition, according to Chief Financial Officer JT Coats, the new au­ditorium in the Nasher-Hae­misegger Family Center for the Arts will be unrecognizable.

“It’s going to be a lovely the­ater, and you are not going to even know that it has the bones of Hoblitzelle underneath it, which is kind of the exciting thing,” Coats said.

The new auditorium will not only enhance theater teach­ing, but it will also enhance the audience’s experience with its comfortable environment. Although the stage will be big­ger, the seating will not be compromised, as the interior will extend to enclose the area where the columns in front of Hoblitzelle stand today. When completed, the new auditorium will house 650 seats and a 100 to 120-seat balcony. The seating has been designed to create the best possible line of sight for the whole audience. With wider spaces between rows and wider chairs, it will have a new level of comfort. There is also the option of having side seating around the perimeter with removable chairs, and without them the sides can serve as ramps leading on and off the stage.

IN WITH THE NEW A tenative computer generated image of what the auditorium will look like. ILLUSTRATION PROVIDED BY GOOD FULTON AND FARRELL
IN WITH THE NEW A tenative computer generated image of what the auditorium will look like.

According to Coats, the cur­rent performance space was built as an auditorium and not a theater. Our new space will be a theater that will serve as an au­ditorium. To achieve this, it will have a full stage, wing spaces to the sides and a full fly, which will be used to raise sets in and out. The control rooms will move downstairs, student-safe cat walks will hover over the au­dience and the set shop will have better access to the stage.

In order to begin construct­ing these spaces, the tenants of the current Fine Arts building will need to move to the por­tables, a task that comes with many challenges because the 2014-2015 school year has long been in session.

During Holiday Break, the Fine Arts Department, spe­cifically the orchestras’ and ce­ramics’ equipment, will start moving into the portables. The portables have been arranged according to input from fine arts teachers so that classes are accommodated in the best pos­sible manner.

Along with the sacrifice of classrooms for portables, the auditorium will officially close its curtains for the last time on Feb. 9.

Most of this year’s events will be held in Hoblitzelle Au­ditorium, but some produc­tions and ceremonies will need to be relocated or rescheduled. Although Coats acknowledges that beginning the construc­tion process in the middle of the year will be difficult, she realizes it is essential for the completion of the project by June 2016.

“That little piece from March to June really helps us to be able to finish and not have to try to finish right when fall starts in 2016,” Coats said.

The Fine Arts faculty has been working closely with the architects and the admin­istration in the design of the new building and will con­tinue giving input throughout the process.

“We have been in the [de­sign] process for years, actu­ally, and we are very blessed that the school acknowledges that the people who use the fa­cilities know best about what should go in them, along with, of course, the professional architects,” Performing Arts Chair and dance instructor Beth Wortley said.

The new building will not only enhance theater experi­ence, but many aspects of the Fine Arts program as well.

Junior Mercer Malakoff, a Drama Extension student, sees how the remodel, especially the revamping of the Black Box Theater, will aid the drama curriculum and entice more people to join.

“The Black Box being ex­panded will help alot with drama and the people in it,” she said. “Everyone [will] be like ‘Oh, I want to try that!”

Wortley also feels that the new facilities will bring inno­vations and new opportunities.

“We can involve more stu­dents, in more ways. We can use modern technology that we have never been able to use,” Wortley said. “The Black Box itself is going to allow us to do some new and innovative pro­ductions that we haven’t ever been able to do, and with a theater space that has so many more possibilities — its bigger, its arranged in an interest­ing way, — [we will have] a lot of new ways to do theater and dance and everything.”

To meet the June 2016 dead­line, the department must be packed and moved out of the building by Feb. 17, 2015. The Fine Arts Department is expect­ed to hold classes in the Nasher- Haemisegger Family Center for the Arts in fall of 2016.

– Megan Philips