Built in 1963, the original Janet Wallace Fine Arts Center consisted of four buildings for music, art, humanities, and theater/dance, joined by an inwardly-focused gallery space. This renovation and expansion—completed in three phases— addressed two overarching goals: to reinvent the mid-century complex to provide students and faculty with additional programmatic flexibility and technologically state-of-the-art facilities, and to foster a stronger connection between arts disciplines and the larger campus community. Recognizing that the arts are important for all students, not just art majors, Macalester sought to reintegrate the arts into the everyday fabric of campus life.
The resulting Arts Commons creates a new front door to the arts from the main campus quad and provides a centralized gathering space to serve the arts disciplines. Phase One (Music) reconfigured and expanded the building to increase functionality and flexibility, including a concert hall, dedicated choral and instrument rehearsal spaces, individual practice rooms, and teaching studios. Phase Two (Studio Art) provided light-filled studio spaces for sculpture, printmaking, drawing, painting, ceramics, and digital media. Phase Three (Theater, Dance, and Classrooms) completed the project with a flexible theater, dance studios, scene shop, rehearsal space, and general use active learning classrooms.
Each phase includes unique exterior design elements that highlight the arts. A staccato texture of bronze metal panels references the materiality of musical instruments in Phase One; four color semi-translucent glazed terra cotta panels reflect the sculpture and glazing process within Phase Two; a perforated, back-lit metal scrim outside the main entrance in Phase Three alludes to the fabric, movement, and lighting unique to the dramatic arts.
By working with the individual departments not only to accommodate individual programmatic needs, but also opportunities to work across disciplines, the project brings the arts disciplines together to live out Macalester’s commitment to the liberal arts.
HGA; Schuler Shook; Acoustic Distinctions; Threshold Acoustics; McGough Construction; Michaud Cooley Erickson; BKBM