Colby Officially Breaks Ground on Gordon Center for Creative and Performing Arts

Announcements10 min. read

Largest academic building project In Colby’s history will play an important role in Central Maine’s burgeoning cultural ecosystem

A rendering of the Gordon Center for Creative and Performing Arts
A rendering of the Gordon Center for Creative and Performing Arts
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Contact: George Sopko ([email protected]) 207-859-4346
September 18, 2021

To celebrate the start of the largest academic building project in its history and acknowledge the lead donor who is making it possible, Colby College officially broke ground today on the Gordon Center for Creative and Performing Arts. The building is named in honor of Trustee Michael Gordon, an alumnus from the Class of 1966, whose commitment to the arts will provide expansive arts opportunities for Colby students and the broader Waterville community.

The $85-million, 74,000-square-foot center, which will open in the fall of 2023, will be the most advanced and innovative arts facility in the region and the new home for Colby’s Departments of Theater and Dance and of Music and the Cinema Studies Program. With a unique combination of multipurpose performance areas and studios designed for teaching, performing, working, and creating, it will also house a dynamic performance hall as well as Colby’s first arts incubator to facilitate and nurture emerging art forms. The building will include dedicated film editing, screening, and recording rooms and will incorporate state-of-the-art multimedia and interactive technologies, which play a major role in today’s arts programming.

A rendering of the Gordon Center for Creative and Performing Arts as seen from Mayflower Hill Drive.
A rendering of the Gordon Center for Creative and Performing Arts as seen from Mayflower Hill Drive.

“The Gordon Center will be a visible and enduring symbol of Colby’s commitment to the arts,” said President David A. Greene. “It will elevate our academic programs, make creativity and performance a centerpiece of a Colby education, create a stunning new gateway to campus, and enrich the entire central Maine community through the vibrancy of its events. This simply wouldn’t be possible without Michael Gordon’s generosity. He knows first hand the power of the arts to bring communities together and to nurture and exhibit the human capacity for creative brilliance.”

Michael Gordon is cofounder of Angelo Gordon and the non-executive chair of Angelo Gordon’s Partnership Advisory Board. Angelo Gordon is a leading investment management firm that specializes in nontraditional assets. An economics major at Colby, he earned a J.D. degree from Boston University School of Law in 1969. In addition to the Board of Trustees, Gordon currently serves on Colby’s Museum Board of Governors and is a former member of the College’s Board of Visitors. He also is a member of the national advisory board of Facing History and Ourselves, serves as director of the Damon Runyon Cancer Research Foundation, and is a trustee of the Boston Symphony Orchestra.

“This is really a wonderful day,” commented Gordon during the groundbreaking event. “When you take a look around and you see the size of the project we’ve undertaken, it’s pretty amazing. And it’s just going to be fabulous when it opens in two years. I think that within the next couple of years after this is built, it’s going to be the destination for students and the College. This is where they’re going to congregate. It’s perfect. It’s got great space. It’s beautiful, it’s airy, it’s open, and it’s very welcoming.”

Other generous supporters who have made important contributions to the forthcoming arts center include Trustee Marieke Rothschild P’16 and her husband, Jeff Rothschild P’16, as well as Trustee John Lyons ’85, P’22 and Susannah Gray P’22, who also serves on Colby’s Museum Board of Governors.

A Different Type of Academic Art Center

In addition to the multimedia and interactive technology assets of the building, what sets the Gordon Center apart from other academic arts centers is its highly collaborative and multidisciplinary nature. Faculty and students from the Music and Theater and Dance Departments, along with the Cinema Studies Program, will be intermixed throughout the building. The interdisciplinary nature of the building will also enable more students in fields beyond music, dance, and theater to create, perform, and engage with the arts. Additionally, the Gordon Center was designed to connect the community through a range of uses, from informal gatherings to impromptu performances, and be a central hub for campus activity.

“The arts are central to who we are and what we do at Colby,” said Margaret McFadden, provost and dean of faculty at Colby. “The Gordon Center will be a creative laboratory to foster the highest quality and most innovative creative work and a space where the community can attend exciting performances, exhibitions, screenings, and other arts activities. The building is designed to enable our students and faculty to collaborate across disciplines in a unique way, and our faculty have embraced the possibilities of this space with energy and imagination. We have great arts programs that have sometimes been limited by our spaces, and the Gordon Center will open new possibilities and ensure that Colby truly is a leader in arts education and a place where the arts are a central aspect of every student’s experience.”

The performance hall in the upcoming Gordon Center for Creative and Performing Arts, seen here in a rendering, will allow for large audiences and productions, including space for a full symphony orchestra.
The performance hall in the upcoming Gordon Center for Creative and Performing Arts, seen here in a rendering, will allow for large audiences and productions, including space for a full symphony orchestra.

At the heart of the building will be a 300-seat performance hall that can be adjusted to accommodate larger audiences and ensembles, including a full symphony orchestra. There will also be a dark studio equipped with full theatrical lighting, a “sandbox” studio for experimental work, and a dance studio. All performance areas were intentionally designed to be interchangeable and flexible.

The Cultural Hub of Northern New England

The Gordon Center for Creative and Performing Arts will contribute to the cultural milieu of the region by providing dynamic programming and offering state-of-the-art space for community usage—everything from local theatrical performances to the Atlantic Music Festival.

The sandbox studio is designed for experimentation and emerging art forms across the disciplines of music, dance, and theater.
The sandbox studio is designed for experimentation and emerging art forms across the disciplines of music, dance, and theater.

The center was designed to complement and enhance the broader arts ecosystem that will help drive economic activity as part of the broader Waterville revitalization initiative. “Our hope is that in the future it will also host and even be the summer home to world-renowned arts organizations—symphonies, theater troupes, or dance companies—as part of the broader goal to make central Maine the cultural hub of Northern New England,” said Greene.

Designed by renowned architect William Rawn of William Rawn Associates, Architects, Inc., the first phase of the construction, which included clearing the area for the project, was completed in the spring. This summer, preparation began for the building’s foundation. As with all its construction projects, the College is committed to using as many local contractors as possible.

Exceptional Investment in the Arts

Between recent campus projects and downtown initiatives, Colby’s total investment in the arts is more than $100 million. In addition to the Gordon Center, the College is preparing to officially open and dedicate an arts collaborative in downtown Waterville, and this past spring construction began on the Paul J. Schupf Art Center on Main Street.

The arts collaborative will provide a home for vibrant arts programming and creative space for the development of original work in the heart of Waterville. Serving as an event and convening space, it was designed to bring together students, scholars, artists, and the Waterville community to engage with and connect to the arts. It is also the new home of the Lunder Institute for American Art, including its Residential Fellowship Program for practicing artists.

The Paul J. Schupf Art Center on Main Street, to be completed in 2022, will be a hub and destination for the visual and performing arts, arts education, and film. The center, which is a partnership between Colby and Waterville Creates, will include the Maine Film Center, which will operate three cinemas, the Ticonic Gallery & Studios, and the Joan Dignam Schmaltz Gallery of Art, an extension of the Colby College Museum of Art. It will also connect with the historic Waterville Opera House and include public gathering spaces.


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