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New Performing Arts Center a leap forward for Reed College

by: MERRY MACKINNON - Opsis Architectures Paul Kinley, Senior Associate and Project Manager, toured guests at the grand opening thorough Reed Colleges new Performing Arts Center. Here, in one of the music rooms, he explains how the wood panels on the wall were especially designed to enhance the acoustics.At a ribbon-cutting ceremony on September 20, and at the Reed Community Day for the public on September 21, Reed College celebrated its leap into the future with the grand opening of a three-story, 80,000-square-foot Performing Arts building.

“It’s like a playground," exclaimed Reed College student Corinne Bachand, whose classes in theater have already started in the building. A senior, Bachand echoed Reed College President Emeritus Colin Diver’s remarks when she added: “It feels like the future of Reed.”

Diver was Reed President from 2002 to 2012, during which time a campaign to build the center started and culminated in the new building. “This Performing Arts Center is a miracle,” Diver remarked, adding that its opening closes the book on “Reed’s long history of inadequately supporting the performing arts.”

For the past century, Reed College’s music, dance, and theater departments had been dispersed to the edges of the campus.

Diver, who has since moved to Boston, but who returned specifically for the ceremony, spoke during the ribbon-cutting, along with current Reed President John Kroger, and Professor of Theatre Kathleen Worley. “There is nothing more in need in this country today than creativity,” Kroger told the gathered guests.

Designed by Portland-based Opsis Architecture and built by Hoffman Construction, the new arts building is nestled into a hill on the west side of the campus. It features three central see-through atriums that provide views of Eliot Hall to the east, and of Crystal Springs Rhododendron Garden’s towering trees to the west.

While the atrium space can be used for performances, the building also features several theaters and music and dance rooms for performances, providing the latest in seating, acoustical, wall, and floor technology.

To encourage collaboration, all fifteen faculty rooms are clustered in one section. “So they can see each other on a daily basis,” explained Opsis Architecture’s Paul Kinley, Senior Associate and Project Manager.

A future,yet-to-be funded, $10 million 500-seat proscenium theater is planned for an adjacent location. It will also provide a venue for performances open to the public. But nearby Kaul Auditorium will still be used for concerts by Chamber Music Northwest and other events. “The big thing is, it’s an academic space; a wonderful laboratory for faculty and students in dance, music and theater,” said Reed College's Director of Communications Kevin Myers. Seventy percent of Reed students take classes in the arts, he added.

Estimates for the building's cost ranged from $20 million to $25 million. Citing the generosity of parents, friends, trustees, foundations, and others, ex-President Diver said that $14 million was raised by means of hundreds of philanthropic contributions.

A well-known actor whose daughter attends Reed was one of the many who gave a gift to the college for the building. According to Reed College Vice President for College Relations Hugh Porter, “John Malkovich showed great support for, and was financially generous toward, our Performing Arts building.”