Space man: Robert Warren pauses to enjoy the spaciousness of the new Center for Artists and Education at Hoyt Sherman Place.
By Christine Riccelli
Robert Warren, executive director of Hoyt Sherman Place, had a sweet birthday present last week: Along with the usual candles and cake, he received the certificate of occupancy for the new 9,000-square-foot addition to the venerable venue. Making that gift even better: The project is ahead of schedule and below budget. And that, it can be said with certainty, rarely (if ever) happens with these kinds of projects.
“We did it with record-breaking speed,” Warren noted as he gave dsm a sneak peek into the addition—called theCenter for Artists and Education—which broke ground this past July 1.
We were nothing short of wowed by the new center’s spaciousness, stunning yet practical design, and seamless integration with the original structure. It immediately became evident that every architectural and design decision was deeply thought out to serve the needs and enhance the comfort of both performers and the public.
The first floor features a space with the same dimensions as the stage, giving visiting and local performing groups a place to rehearse, plus sleek and inviting backstage areas for the artists, including dressing rooms, showers and laundry facilities, all outfitted with mod cons. Up until now, artists had to use an old broom-closet-sized half bath and two small, dated and rather musty dressing rooms. The lack of amenities “sometimes was a deal-breaker” in drawing artists to the venue, Warren notes.
On the second floor, a 3,000-square-foot rentable space with a catering kitchen can be used for receptions, business meetings, classes, weddings, lunches or dinners, and other events, as well as meet-and-greets with visiting artists. The organization’s administrative offices—currently crammed into a corner in the original mansion—are moving to the center’s third floor, which also showcases our favorite space: a VIP lounge with an exposed brick wall of the main building’s former exterior, windows that provide an engaging view of downtown and lighting that washes the entire room in a warm glow.
The overall $4.5 million project includes more than the new center: Inside the original building, former second-floor storage areas were transformed into a donor lounge and private donor bathroom, and on the first floor, the kitchen was bumped out to provide space for a walk-in refrigerator. Then there’s the newly built annex on the box-office level that everyone will heartily cheer: It contains new women’s and men’s restrooms, tripling the current capacity.
The venue will get new landscaping this spring, and eventually, the space in the 1877 mansion where the offices are now located will be restored. Near the art gallery, a passenger elevator will be installed.
You’ll get your own opportunity to check out the Center for Artists and Education June 17, when Hoyt Sherman will host a grand opening gala. In addition, there will be a series of open houses during the organization’s free Jazz in July concerts.