Originally opened in 1952 to honor the boys who risked—and gave—their lives in World War II, the Memorial Building remains the place of introduction to Deerfield. Here students awkwardly introduce themselves in the first days of school and express their love and sorrow on the night before graduation. Here students find their footing making announcements, shouting one-liners from the balcony, or putting a speaker on notice with a particularly astute question.
This place of tradition offers opportunities like no other on campus: It is a safe place to take risks. On stage and in the studio, students expand their talents and knowledge in ways that are sometimes a bit scary—but they gain confidence when our community gathers in support. This vital rhythm—of risk and reward, of private effort and public performance—is established in Deerfield’s arts program, and no more appropriate place could be designated for its incubation than the Memorial Building, which literally and figuratively sits at the heart of campus.
Beginning on June 3 and wrapping up in August of 2014, the Memorial Building will undergo a transformation. The renovated building will reinvigorate old spaces, translating some to new purposes while simply reinforcing others against the throes of modern use. It will also address some practical issues. Music practice rooms are loud, and work well in the basement, whereas the visual arts need quiet light and might benefit from excavation. The Large Auditorium doesn’t quite fit everyone, so more seats are needed. Currently, the theater program has improvised a classroom in what is actually a gallery, but after the renovation they’ll have a dedicated space. A larger gallery and a new concert hall are explicit additions to the building.
Under the guidance of Senior Manager of Construction Projects and Planning Jeffrey Galli, preparing for the renovation has been a collaborative process. Design was handled by Architectural Resources Cambridge (ARC), with significant input from faculty and staff members who will teach and work in the building. From storage spaces to acoustics, no aspect of the arts center was left unexplored. Recognizing the wisdom of direct experience, custodians were asked to weigh in on practical matters such as the most efficient way to remove trash and recycling, while arts faculty contributed to the details in studios and gallery spaces.
Mechanically, new systems will bring greater efficiency and creative opportunity. A modern recording studio will see updated equipment and booths wired for sound. Classrooms will gain projection equipment and speedy Internet access—all the better for accessing digital art collections. Communications systems (vital when coordinating a theater production) and things like lighting and staging controls will be upgraded for greater speed and reliability; they will also provide students with direct experience in working with professional quality accouterments. Details like combinations of fixed lights and adjustable track lighting in art studios will allow for greater flexibility and creativity. Distinct spaces, such as a digital print room, will be created for new media that wasn’t even a consideration when the arts facilities were last renovated. The building’s mechanicals will be upgraded, gaining a LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) rating in the process, and providing cost savings as well as greater comfort.