Aug 12, 2014
WCSU's $97 Million Danbury Visual and Performing Arts Center to Open
Dan Goble doesn’t say anything during a recent tour as he leads Connecticut Magazine onto the stage of the concert hall at the new 130,000-square-foot Western Connecticut State University Visual & Performing Arts Center. Goble, Dean of WestConn’s School of Visual and Performing Arts, likes to let the space speak for itself and it speaks volumes.
The 350-seat three-tier theater (above and right) is an architectural work of art; ornate, acoustically-designed wood paneling flanks the stage, stadium seating brings each seat close to the performers, and the upper two levels of the space loop dramatically in a circle around the stage. The hall is anchored by two grand pianos, a Steinway Model “D” and a Yamaha CFX, both of which have six-figure price tags.
However, as impressive as it is, the concert hall is only one of the crown jewels of the $97 million Performing Arts Center, which will open when classes begin Aug. 28 and will host its official ribbon cutting ceremony on Sept. 4.
(Right: the building's lobby)
The newly-minted space will serve as the flagship for the University’s School of Visual and Performing Arts, which encompasses the Music, Art, and Theatre Arts departments, and will house about 50 faculty members and 450 students. Goble also hopes the center will be a source of community pride.
“A cultural venue changes the way a community feels about itself. It’s something Danbury can be proud of and Connecticut can be proud of,” he says, adding that some of the building’s facilities will be available for rentals on dates that don’t conflict with student performances.
The Arts Center was designed by the architectural firms of Holzman/Moss/Bottino and Amenta/Emma with the three distinct disciplines of the school of Visual and Performing Arts in mind. The building consists of three wings, each dedicated to a different discipline and connected by a ramp bridge that overlooks the venue’s dramatic lobby.
The music wing features the aforementioned concert hall, as well as smaller performance spaces, classrooms, practice rooms, and a recording studio (right) that houses the school’s new Audio and Music Production degree program and features a Solid State Logic Duality audio console (one of the finest available in the industry). In addition to its dedicated recording space, the studio also has the capability to record performances in the concert hall and in other performance spaces and practice rooms within the facility.
Goble explains that although “every space in the building has had some type of input from an acoustician,” particular attention was paid to acoustics in the music wing.
(Below, the buildling from the outside.)
In the art wing of the building Goble says the “focus is light.” This wing features double-height, northern-exposed windows and spacious painting and sculpture studios. This wing is less about technology (though it has high-end graphic design studios and HD projectors to display art) and more about providing bright, open and airy facilities for the students to work in.
The theater wing boasts a main stage theater (above) that is equally as impressive as the music hall. Like the music hall it is an intimate 350-theater but WestConn's website states it has “functionality beyond many Broadway venues.” This functionality includes a 70-foot-high backstage area where 51 line sets can be flown up and down for scene changes. There is also a 30-musician orchestra pit, and an electrically movable stage apron (the portion of the stage extending in front of the curtain and proscenium arch) that can be lowered into the floor if a performance does not call for an apron. Beyond that there’s a smaller performance space and several rehearsal spaces with sprung dance floors.
In all, the performing arts facility took 12 years to plan, design and finance. While it was being built, the facility did not have much of an impact on student recruitment, but Goble expects that will change now that it is complete and potential students will have the chance to visit and experience the spectacular space.