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Brown’s new performing arts space will celebrate artistry and innovation

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Brown University is “prioritizing cultivating creative expression” on campus, and the community at large, with a new performing arts center that is expected to be completed in late 2020, according to Brian Clark, Director of Brown’s News and Editorial Department. While Brown already has several smaller, more intimate performing arts spaces – such as the Granoff Center for the Creative Arts, Leeds Theatre, and Lyman Hall – the new performing arts center will be the university’s largest, and most expansive, to date.

East Siders might recall the controversy last year surrounding Brown’s ambitious proposal for the new PAC – it included razing several historic properties, which both the community and preservationists fought against. Brown revised their plan, and are now developing a design that will be ready by spring 2019 – fall at the latest – when the university will be able to reveal renderings of the building to the public.

Nestled into The Walk, a series of green spaces by Pembroke Campus, the center will be housed on a plot between Angell and Olive Streets, facing Granoff. It will be a vibrant, celebratory space for dance, music, theater, and multimedia arts, packed with state-of-the-art performing and rehearsal spaces, green rooms, dressing rooms, and studios for actors, dancers, and musicians, in addition to office space for staff and visiting artists. It will also be large enough to house an opera.

In November, alumnus John Atwater and his wife, Diana Nelson, donated $31.6 million to the project, which will fund the lobby. The glass foyer will lead out into an inviting amphitheater – a fitting ode to the theater of yore in a fully modern space. Brown has selected REX for the architectural firm, the internationally recognized creators of award-winning projects such as the Ronald O. Perelman Performing Arts Center at the World Trade Center and the Guggenheim Las Vegas Museum. 

In the heart of College Hill and at the center of Brown, in close proximity to other arts spaces and academic buildings for all courses of study, the performing arts center will be “increasing access to the arts among students of all disciplines” – for scholarly symposia, classes, performances, and extracurriculars – and to community members. For Clark, “There is absolutely the belief among faculty and many students here that… creating solutions to some of the challenges facing the world and society is enabled by creative problem-solving.” The new performance space aims to be at the forefront of such work.