Try to imagine Reed without the performing arts. No Boar’s Head Procession, no Hum Play, no Fridays at Four. No drums at Thesis Parade, no Shakespeare in Cerf Amphitheatre, no bagpipes at commencement. The performing arts add spice to campus life, as they trigger inquiry and scholarship.
This summer, Reed will break ground on a $28 million performing arts building packed with stages, studios, classrooms, and practice space, made possible by the Centennial Campaign. For the first time, the music, dance, and theatre departments will be united under one roof as the college makes a historic bricks-and-mortar commitment to the performing arts.
“Enhancement of Reed’s programs in music, dance, and theatre has been a goal of the college for as long as I can remember,” says Roger Perlmutter ’73, chairman of the board of trustees. “Construction of a new performing arts building emerged as the highest priority capital project when the college formulated its strategic plan five years ago. Our new building will, for the first time, pay appropriate respect to the talent and aspirations of our gifted undergraduates in the performing arts.”
The performing arts provide unparalleled opportunities for students to hone skills in creative expression and oral communication. In addition, says President Colin Diver, Reed students need more opportunities for teamwork.
“We don’t have some of the outlets that other schools have, such as self-governing fraternities or varsity athletic teams. But what we do have is programs in music, dance, and theatre—very small programs doing good work under difficult circumstances. It seemed to be the logical place to invest to give students those kinds of outlets. The fact that we were going to do a Centennial Campaign provided the vehicle for lifting this up and making it the centerpiece.”
Launched in 2005 with a goal of $200 million, the Centennial Campaign is the most ambitious fundraising effort in campus history. It has allowed Reed to adopt a three-phase plan for the performing arts.
In Phase One, the college added professors, beefed up support for research, and strengthened programs in all three departments. Money for this phase (now mostly complete) was raised with a $1.5 million grant from the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation and nearly $4.5 million in gifts from alumni and friends.
Phase Two consists of the performing arts building. Reed hopes to raise at least half of the cost, $14 million, from gifts, with the remainder to be financed with bonds.
Phase Three envisions a 450-seat proscenium theatre, which will connect to the southwest corner of the performing arts building. Construction of the theatre will not begin until the projected $10 million cost has been raised. This could take five to ten years, according to Hugh Porter, vice president for college relations, unless donors step forward to put it on a fast track.
Now that Phase One is complete, and the departments have better support, the focus has shifted to Phase Two—finding them a better home. In October, the board of trustees voted to approve the new facility and set about raising money from themselves. Soon their efforts yielded over $7.5 million in support for the building.
“There’s obviously a need, because the performing arts have been on the ‘to do’ list for a number of years and we are a liberal arts college,” says trustee Alice Steiner ’74. “The notion of having a liberal arts college without strong performing arts components didn’t make much sense.”