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University News

Glass walls bring arts under one roof

By
Senior Staff Writer
Wednesday, January 26, 2011

The Perry and Marty Granoff Center for the Creative Arts opens today. It sports features such as media labs, a recording studio, and an eco-friendly roof.

The Perry and Marty Granoff Center for the Creative Arts — the newest building on campus — opens to the public today.

The building, located on the Walk between Angell and Olive streets just west of the Brown Bookstore, will provide a common space for interaction between different programs in the arts, as well as other disciplines that can be connected to the arts in new or existing ways. The space will not belong to any one department.

Construction on the center began in June 2009, and a private dedication ceremony is slated for Feb. 10.

 

An open center

Openness and interaction are key elements of the Granoff Center. Glass on the facade allows passers-by to see what is going on in most of the building’s rooms.

“Giving people a peek at what’s happening might entice them to come check it out,” said Chira DelSesto, program coordinator of the Creative Arts Council.

The most prominent design feature of the center is the lack of floors spanning the entire building. Rather, the north and south halves of the building are offset by half of a floor. The center of the building — where the two offset floors come together — features a soundproofed wall with two layers of glass, which allows people in a room to see what is going on in the rooms a half-floor above and below on the other side of the building.

The glass wall in the center of the building allows interaction between the different artists using the space. “Somebody could be sitting in the multimedia lab and see a dance rehearsal downstairs,” said Julie Strandberg, director of dance and senior lecturer in theater arts and performance studies.

The building’s stairs feature “living rooms” — landings which extend away from the stairs and will have seating. They will have projection and sound capabilities, which can be used for small presentations or class breakout sessions, DelSesto said.

The living rooms will provide a place for “serendipitous” meeting, she said.

 

Under one roof

“The arts departments are now spread out around the campus,” said Richard Fishman, director of the Creative Arts Council and professor of visual arts. Faculty may want to work with others in other disciplines, but may not be aware of what others are doing. He said he hopes the Granoff Center will facilitate frequent interaction.

This semester, there will be several courses held in the building. No class or department has a permanent spot in the building, and applications for prospective classes are reviewed by the Creative Arts Council, Fishman said.

One such class is TAPS 1281P: “Under One Roof: Interdisciplinary and Intermedial Art.” The class is “primarily a studio course using the inside and outside of the Granoff Center as a canvas/studio/stage,” according to the course description. The class will explore the building and become acquainted with all of its technology and special features, Strandberg, one of the two instructors, said. Students will work in project groups to create works of art in or on the building, she said.

The Granoff Center will play host to presentations, lectures, films festivals and other events throughout the spring. “The calendar is pretty full this semester,” DelSesto said.

The Creative Arts Council also wants to reach out to the Providence community, DelSesto said.  “Anything we can open to the public we certainly will.”

 

An innovative space

The building has two entrances — one on the Walk and another on Angell Street next to the entrance to the Brown Office Building.

Just inside the main entrance, a gallery space with a movable wall will feature both student and professional work. A gallery committee of the Creative Arts Council will determine what is featured there, DelSesto said.

The southern half of the ground along the Walk slopes down to an amphitheater, and on the south half of the ground floor is the main auditorium. The amphitheater has grass seating and can be used on its own or as an extension of the auditorium. Uses of the amphitheater are “open to the lively imagination of the students and faculty,” Fishman said.

One of the main features of the auditorium, which seats about 200 people, is a 35-mm projector. Standard for modern cinema, it is a new technology at Brown, said Mary Ann Doane, professor of modern culture and media. “We’ve been fighting for a 35-mm (projection space) for over 20 years,” Doane said. It will be of use for both courses and film festivals. One of her classes, MCM 0260: “Cinematic Coding and Narrativity,” which she said she has taught for about 30 years, will use the Granoff Center this semester.

There is also a modern recording studio, a physical media lab and a multimedia lab with 16 computer stations. Additionally, there are four multipurpose production studios, which will have a variety of audiovisual connections available. If blackout shades are used, the studios can be transformed into black box theaters.

The building is topped by a green roof, which will not be publicly accessible. Another environmentally friendly feature is the building’s “exterior venetian blinds” which can be retracted during the winter to “take advantage of passive solar heat gain,” said Jesse Saylor, the project architect.

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