Doors are Open: New Hess Center for the Arts

RenovationAfter a year without the use of the Memorial Building complex, everyone is excited about the Hess Center for the Arts opening in time for classes this September. I am happy to report that the project is right on schedule (in mid-August we’ll move in), and it is on budget, as well.

The goals of the project included addressing about $13 million of deferred maintenance that accumulated over the last 25 years; expanding the auditorium to allow seating for the entire community; and providing spaces to showcase the talents of our arts faculty and students with a new art gallery and concert hall.

The Memorial Building complex was a collection of five separate but attached buildings (Memorial (Large Aud), Hilson Gallery, Black Box theater, Reed Center for the Arts, and dance studio) constructed in different time periods. As a result, there were two dozen separate mechanical systems to heat, ventilate, and air condition the building. The roof was in need of repairs, and the music practice rooms were small and too few to meet current needs. Renovations to the building included restoration of existing millwork in the Memorial Building Lobby, replacing all the windows and exterior entrances, masonry restoration, new HVAC, plumbing, fire protection, fire alarm, electrical, lighting systems, and interior finishes. Music practice rooms have been moved to the lower level, and feature better sizing and sound proofing; art studios have been relocated to the second floor, allowing for more display space with greater visibility.

Renovations have made the complex more efficient to operate and improved its functionality; additions have made the Hess Center for the Arts truly exceptional. The auditorium grew from seating 650 to 800 people by expanding the rear balcony and adding balconies to both sides, thereby allowing for more seating while also providing the venue with a more intimate feel. The new Elizabeth Wachsman Concert Hall will seat 170 and is designed with state-of-the-art acoustical specifications. In addition, a floor to ceiling glass wall provides an extraordinary view. The new Von Auersperg Art Gallery is a beautiful cube design with sliding pocket glass doors in the corners, which let in light and visitors. The west-facing corridor around the gallery has a glass wall that reveals the main quad, views of the hills and the afternoon sun. The gallery space is designed to show faculty and student work, as well as that of the masters in the Academy’s collection. The Hess Center classrooms are designed with state-of-the-art technology and flexible seating to allow for varied and evolving teaching styles and include two for use by all departments.

Thanks to the generosity of alumni, parents, and friends of the Academy, the entire $33 million dollar project was funded from gifts. Completion of the Hess Center for the Arts has positioned Deerfield to be a leader in arts education, with a facility that will assist our students in achieving their best. Please be sure to share in our excitement by taking a walk through the Hess Center for the Arts when you are next on campus!

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