Fine Arts construction to scatter Music across neighborhood

By Diego Ruiz

At a program to celebrate the beginning of the $32.8 million renovation and expansion of the Janet Wallace Fine Arts Complex last Monday, Music and Theatre double major Peytie McCandless ’11 said she “couldn’t be more overjoyed that this is happening.””It’s really time for the spaces we work in to reflect the work that’s happening here,” McCandless said to an audience of 200 in the concert hall.

But McCandless does not know where her senior recital will be held come this spring.

Although the prospect of new and improved facilities excites Music students and faculty, the construction that starts in less than two months will leave the department dispersed across and nearby campus for a year and a half.

This renovation is only the first phase: it will replace the Art Gallery and current Music buildings. It is scheduled to be complete before the fall of 2012 – after current juniors and seniors graduate.

The Art and Theatre buildings are scheduled to undergo similar renovations and expansions once the first phase is finished.

Sitting in the second row at the Fine Arts celebration was Provost Kathy Murray. She has been one of the major boosters of the Fine Arts project since she arrived on campus two years ago.

She said that there was “no way around” having the music department in “less than ideal” spaces during construction.

Mark Mazullo, the chair of the Music department, said moving was a “gargantuan task,” especially in a short amount of time. There will only be a few weeks after finals to do most of the work of moving an entire department.

Luckily, the department will not be going very far. “Our goal was to have the program on or immediately adjacent to campus,” said Murray. “I didn’t want to have the choir have to take a bus to practice.”

Faculty offices and practice rooms will be in 45 North Snelling, the former clinic at Portland and Snelling, one block north of campus. The college purchased it as a transitional space earlier this year.

No music ensemble will have regular practice more than a block away from campus for the next three semesters, Murray said. Orchestra will practice at Ramsey Junior High down Grand Avenue, and choir will practice at Immanuel Lutheran Church, across Snelling Avenue from the Leonard Center.

Some ensembles will remain on campus. Associate Director of Residential Life Peg Olson recently sent an email warning dorm residents that the Pipe Band and African Music Ensemble will practice in the Turck Formal Lounge on the first floor, and asked for students’ understanding over the next few semesters.

“As you might imagine, the sound of these activities could be disruptive for students living in these areas,” Olson wrote. “We ask for your patience during this transition period.”Some classes and ensembles will also be held in currently unused classrooms and a practice room in George Draper Dayton Hall.

Performances will pose somewhat more of a challenge. Several large performances (such as Songs of the Earth) will be held at other college campuses or churches in St. Paul, with buses providing transportation for students.

Smaller shows will be held on or near campus, either in spaces such as the Chapel or Kagin Ballroom, or nearby churches.

McCandless, the senior who spoke at the celebration, wrote in an email that she was feeling “a little anxious about making my senior recital work next semester.”

“The chapel or a church aren’t the greatest places to perform,” she continued, because of their extremely small stages. (She is hoping her recital could include a scene from a musical.)

There are the additional drawbacks of uncomfortable seating in pews and lack of normal concert lighting.

“It’s going to be really challenging,” she wrote.

Murray said she had talked to the students like McCandless and was sympathetic to the current juniors and seniors who would have their final performances in alternative spaces.

“They recognize the importance of this project and are dealing with the inconveniences,” Murray said. “There’s just no way around this.