Four shovels broke ground in front of the campus' historic barn during Alumni Weekend, marking the end of the new Center for the Arts' planning phase and the beginning of its construction phase.
"I'm a former museum curator, so I'll especially miss the barn," noted Peter Spang '52, who was on hand for the groundbreaking event. "But I care about the arts and appreciate what a great building the new center will be."
From left to right: Head of School John Packard, President of the Board of the Trustees Steve Gorham '85, P'17, Distinguished Brooksian Nick Booth '67, P'05 and Vice President of the Board of Trustees Whitney Romoser Savignano '87.
Demolition is slated for the first full week of June. But preparatory work began in the middle of May, when the school's archivist and grounds crew began emptying the building. Much is being donated to local schools and nonprofits, but items of historic importance (old costumes) or things of current use (musical instruments) are being stored in various areas around campus.
Construction crews will install the construction fence around the job site and cut heat to the building on May 30, one day after graduation. The Aulson Company will remove roof shingles and Valley Tree Company will cut down surrounding trees, including the majestic Tulip tree, starting on Friday, June 2. John Sirois, a local millworker, will use wood from this tree to build items to be used in the new building, including recognition pieces.
School administrators are also preserving three other prominent elements of the old barn: the lantern outside the front entrance; the bell by the attached apartment and the weathervane on top of the structure. The weathervane will be incorporated in the center's design.
"The weathervane is iconic," John Runnells '82 P'17 noted during Alumni Weekend. "It's in every picture. But you have to go out with the old and in with the new. I understand it's due, but it's just so iconic; I'll miss it. It kind of made the school ... I'm old fashioned, though; I still like sitting down and hearing the creak of the wood."
The new building is expected to be completed by fall 2018, meaning the school community will need to function with a construction site at the center of its campus for at least one full academic year. Classes — and performances — will be held in non-traditional places. But the arts department will be creative as always, and already is planning to hold a number of its annual performances off-campus. For example, the jazz band will play during a local restaurant's weekend jazz brunch, and the Winter Musical will be held in a nearby theater.
Many will miss the historic old building: "There was something magical about it being a barn, with the creaking chairs and everything. It was always overflowing with people which gave it a sense of warmth and community," Lawrence Stuart '02 noted while on campus for Alumni Weekend. But the sacrifices will all be worth it, as the school's arts program will only flourish in the new space: "The program that we should have is the program we will have, and we won't keep bumping into the physical limitations of the space we're in," Chair of the Arts Department Rob Lazar said.