The West Campus project represents the final—and largest—piece of a master plan that was initiated in 2007 with the acquisition of the Arena Farms land and the transformative creation of the Moriarty Athletic Campus. For nearly two decades, the school has benefited from a continuum of improvements to facilities in support of CA’s program and mission, all made possible by the generosity of the community. The current project and the possibilities it represents are exciting, and we know that you have questions. The following responses are here to provide context as we move closer to realizing a vision that will meet the aspirations of our students and educators for years to come.
What’s the scope of the West Campus plan, and how does the Centennial Arts Center fit into it?
The plan for CA’s West Campus fulfills the school’s need to use every inch of our town-based campus to support our program and mission. This vision for making the most of our limited space has been refined over nearly 20 years. Building on a series of earlier investments in our campus, we can now reallocate underutilized space to construct a new building, the Centennial Arts Center (C.A.C.), which will create much-needed specialized and flexible teaching and performance spaces. The West Campus plan also involves moving faculty houses on the west side of campus to form Academy Village, and restoring a disused playing field to a naturalized meadow, enhancing green space that will facilitate connection and learning. With the completion of this project, our campus will become a unified whole.
How will the C.A.C. affect the culture and program of CA?
The additional space and functionality of the C.A.C. will support and enhance excellence in the arts and throughout the broader academic program. Creating and performing in a building deliberately designed for those purposes will spark students’ imaginations, inspire them to challenge themselves, and support their individual and collective expression through purposeful collaboration and creative engagement.
Where will the C.A.C. be in relation to the Chapel?
The C.A.C. will anchor the west side of campus, situated to the left of the Chapel, looking toward the Sudbury River from our western residential houses (Haines, Hobson, and Phelps). As the architectural renderings show, the C.A.C. and Chapel will live side by side; the C.A.C. will not overshadow the Chapel. A pollinator meadow will extend between the two structures, and the interior windows of the C.A.C. will frame and honor the Chapel. Reconfiguring West Campus will allow the Chapel to stand at the physical center of our campus, just as it is the heart of our school.
I’ve heard that the new space is benefitting all students, regardless of whether they focus intensely on the arts. Can you explain what this means?
All students are required to earn 10 credits in the arts as part of their graduation requirement. We are also excited for the cross-pollination that the new space will allow. Just imagine the feature film course filming, while a music course on film scoring is working to score the film in the digital production lab; a collaborative English and computer science course on digital stories using interactive technology and immersive installations to bring stories to 3D life; English and theater courses working on Shakespeare in-the-round in the amazingly flexible theater. These are only a few of the plans for cross-curricular collaboration in this space. The building itself will also significantly enhance the social gathering spaces on our campus that are so important for building our community.
Why is the theater only 175 seats?
We worked closely with leaders in the field to determine the optimally sized theater for our program. For young performers, smaller performance spaces support best practices in arts education; virtually every well-designed theater space for young performers at independent schools is likewise more intimate in scope. Both the audience and the performers benefit from the more personal scale, which also encourages more performances (and more practice performing!). The space has been designed for maximum flexibility, with retractable seats opening up a variety of possibilities, for staging to suit each performance and allowing us to accommodate more audience members, as needed. This will allow us to reconfigure the theater space to make it optimal at different times for mainstage productions, dance performances, film screenings, class meetings, classes, and events.
How will the C.A.C. benefit music students?
Our 15 variously sized new practice rooms will be soundproofed and have recording capabilities to support chamber music ensembles and the 150+ individual music lessons that happen every week on campus. Large ensembles will have a dedicated rehearsal room. A 125-seat music hall has been designed with optimal acoustics for performances and recitals; it will also make master classes possible. Our community will also benefit from a state-of-the-art recording studio, a percussion studio, and ample storage for instruments. Thoughtfully designed spaces are not only important for students; excellent facilities will also attract talented adults who love to work with creative students.
What is the impact of the project for dance?
Dance performances will use the C.A.C. theater, while the existing dance studio will continue as a classroom and rehearsal space. The permanent stage floor in the C.A.C. is stagelam, and we will have portable marley that we will lay down for dance performances. The portable marley allows us the flexibility to set up the room in a variety of configurations and to use the Process, Presentation, Performance (P3) in the C.A.C. as a dance venue as well. Our existing dance studio in the SHAC will remain the wonderful space for classes and rehearsals that it has been since 1998.
Will the visual arts have a home in this space?
Most of the visual arts—including painting, drawing, ceramics, fiber arts, and photography—are appropriately housed and supported in the MAC. However, the C.A.C. will unlock significant new opportunities for the film program, most notably through the Digital Production Lab, which will support audio engineering, and a reconfigurable Process, Presentation, Performance (P3) Lab that will serve as a soundstage that will support the integration of the arts and academics in innumerable ways. In addition, the C.A.C. will provide opportunities for displaying students’ visual artwork in the P3.
How many square feet will the C.A.C. add to academic, arts, and community spaces?
The C.A.C. will add more than 37,000 square feet to our teaching, learning, and performing spaces and serve as a vital and energizing new location for our community to gather and socialize. As important, it will add incalculable opportunities for student-performers to do and learn more and will also support interdisciplinary work that was not possible before.
What does the C.A.C. mean for CA’s emphasis on sustainability?
CA is deeply committed to environmental sustainability. We are incorporating solar panels and other features that support our deep care for the environment. In total, we have committed $1 million to ensure that, in practice, this new center is in full alignment with our values and mission. Among the outcomes and initiatives: no fossil fuels use for C.A.C. or Academy Village (reconfigured faculty housing); robust insulation levels; daylight and occupancy sensors; pollinator meadow creation; 20% reduction of pavement; planting of more than 500 trees, shrubs, and understory trees. In addition, EV charging stations will be installed in the parking lot.
What will be possible in this space that we can’t already do now?
The C.A.C. ultimately allows us to expand the boundaries of our academic program, while amplifying our commitment to the arts. Just one example of how the space will enhance our existing program is by enabling theater students to work on set design and construction in a dedicated scene shop. Existing space cannot accommodate this key component of the theater program. The shop will also expand opportunities for visual arts courses in sculpture, architecture, design, and fiber arts. The theater in the C.A.C. will have catwalks, making it safe for students to hang lights and learn to manage other professionally oriented technical theater tasks. Similarly, the new facilities for film and sound engineering are exciting and will allow students to collaborate in ways that are not currently possible. Dressing rooms, a green room, and a costume shop—all on the lower level—will likewise add to the functionality of the space.
The P.A.C. has been CA’s primary performance space. What will it be used for in the future?
The P.A.C., built in 1968, will return to its original function: as an assembly hall and multi-use space. It was never designed, or ideal for, performance. The P.A.C. will continue to be used for all-school assemblies, announcements, classes, and meetings for which it is useful and important.
What is the timing of the project?
The project is scheduled to be completed in spring 2025, so the class of 2025 will get to experience the benefits for a few months; subsequent classes will have the full benefit. Even those who “miss” the opening will appreciate how this project enhances the value of a CA education.
What buildings are being moved and why?
Two existing buildings (four faculty apartments) are being relocated to make room for the C.A.C. Those relocations will happen in summer 2023, and the school is supporting the faculty members affected to cause as little disruption as possible. Ides Cottage (238 Main Street), which is currently located at the corner of the senior steps, and 240 Main Street, which is located behind the head of school’s house at 228 Main Street, will be moved in late June, relocated next to Toad Hall (234 Main Street), creating an Academy Village for adults on the western edge of campus. The garage at Toad Hall (236 Main Street) will be converted to a faculty apartment, permanently replacing the basement apartment at 240 Main Street. (Note that the project will result in renumbering of the campus buildings for emergency purposes and town use.)
I understand that the project will result in fewer parking spaces on campus. How will CA manage this, and what will it mean for students and others who park on campus?
The footprint of the C.A.C. and the commitment to green space will reconfigure and redistribute parking on campus. The Town of Concord, in partnership with CA, recently completed a thorough study indicating that on a typical school day, more than 250 spaces within less than a five-minute walk from campus—and even across the street!—are open and available. Should we find that parking becomes problematic, we have developed a parking contingency plan for campus.
How is this project mission-aligned?
The project touches upon mission in so many ways: supporting the arts; enhancing cross-disciplinary opportunities; introducing needed square footage for teaching and learning; and celebrating our sustainability efforts. Board president and campaign co-chair Fay Lampert Shutzer ’65 says, “Every student experiences the arts at CA, either as a required class or through personal desire to explore [the arts]. Every student will use this space, and everyone will benefit.”
The C.A.C. will afford students and faculty members both the functionality and, literally, the space to branch out—to redefine and refine through experimentation and collaboration. The facilities will bring together not just performers and those who teach them but also those who imagine and build sets; those who film; those who are interested in sound design and podcasting. This building will align with the talents and aspirations of creativity that are core to CA’s identity.
I understand that some students are concerned about how long it will take to walk from the SHAC to the C.A.C. What passing time is allowed and will it be adjusted?
Currently, students have five minutes to move between classes. We believe that the walking time will still be adequate, and we are open to making minor schedule adjustments should this not be the case.
What is the relationship between this project and broader strategic planning?
The West Campus project is, in many ways, the culmination of a 20-year master plan for campus. It creates an arc from west to east, effectively wrapping the campus in the arts. It follows the completion of the Moriarty Athletic Campus, the CA Labs science center, the building of Bailey Commons, and the renovation of student houses. A new strategic planning process will launch soon, further helping us to identify space needs and their alignment with strategic priorities.
How did this project come about? Why now?
The opportunity to unlock new potential in West Campus was identified decades ago and has been made possible by earlier campus investments. Don Kingman, director of campus planning, design, and construction, has been overseeing the development of West Campus in partnership with several committees and consultants. The project was approved by the board in 2018, and intensive planning continued through the pandemic. With the leadership of new Head of School Henry Fairfax, the Board of Trustees, and the Campaign Steering Committee, the project is moving forward.
Which architectural firm designed this space?
CA has partnered Concord-based with Dewing Schmid Kearns on the design of the C.A.C.
What is the relationship between the West Campus project and the Centennial Campaign?
In 2018, the CA Board of Trustees made a commitment to fund the C.A.C. and the majority of the West Campus project through philanthropy. As with other recent projects, the generosity of the extended CA community will enable the thoughtful evolution of our campus. The fundraising goal for the C.A.C. is $25 million +. In addition, the Centennial Campaign has a $25 million + goal to grow the school’s endowment, which is critical to CA’s long-term health and vibrancy.
What impact do you expect this project to have on the student experience?
The student experience is at the heart of every decision we make and every initiative we pursue at CA. The anticipated impact is powerful: Students who love to perform, make art, and exercise their creativity will have the space, tools, and teaching to expand beyond what has been possible on campus before. They will benefit from teachers who stretch their pedagogical routine to explore how arts, academics, and creative endeavors can dovetail. This will be a new chapter in creative exploration for all CA students.