University At Buffalo Opens Spectacular New Center For The Arts

Release Date: August 30, 1994 This content is archived.


BUFFALO, N.Y. -- University at Buffalo officials have announced the grand opening of the university's Center for the Arts, a vast, $50-million structure designed by the award-winning New York City architectural team of Gwathmey and Siegel.

The 500-room building, which contains more than 250,000 square feet of floor space, houses teaching and administrative areas, as well as performance and exhibition spaces.

Those spaces -- including a major regional art gallery, 400-seat and 1,750-seat theaters, two experimental theater spaces and film-screening rooms -- will be inaugurated with a Grand Opening Festival, to be held from Oct. 28 through Nov. 20. The festival will include dozens of dance, theater, music and literary performances by regional, national and international artists.

UB's departments of Art, Media Study and Theatre and Dance moved into the facility last September, although performance and exhibition areas were not complete. With the center fully opened, it is the first time in UB history that all of the university's arts departments are housed in close proximity, a fact that is expected to lead to a broad range of collaborative interdisciplinary ventures by students and UB's many nationally renowned arts faculty members.

The UB Department of Music and its major classroom and performances spaces, Baird Hall and Slee Hall, are next door to the center on UB's North (Amherst) Campus. These adjoin Clemens Hall, which houses the remaining departments in the UB Faculty of Arts and Letters.

Kerry S. Grant, UB dean of arts and letters, said "The national importance of this university in the arts -- the zenith of which was the era of the Creative Associates and the legacy of which is the North American New Music Festival and June in Buffalo Festival for emerging composers -- will be enhanced by the programs of artists-in-residence and the commissioning of new works, which are a key element in the diverse mission of the Center for the Arts."

The UB center will be directed by Robert E. Chumbley, former director of the Lied Center for the Performing Arts at the University of Nebraska, Lincoln.

Chumbley called the center "a house for the exploration of all art, its relevance to our time and our future" and said that several collaborative interdisciplinary music, theater and media-arts productions involving students and arts faculty are already in the planning stages.

Al Harris F., who formerly headed the Center for Research in Contemporary Art at the University of Texas, Arlington, is director of the University Gallery located in the center.

Harris F. said the University Gallery, which has scheduled a year of major exhibitions featuring such major international artists as Victor Burgin and Adrian Piper, also is developing interdisciplinary programming. One example he cited is the Curatorial Initiatives Program, which invites UB faculty to publish research in the form of curated art exhibitions.

He also noted that the Burgin exhibit will be produced in conjunction with the UB Center for the Study of Psychology and Culture, and the Piper show will involve the university's Department of Philosophy. Piper holds a doctorate in philosophy from Harvard and her scholarly pursuits deeply inform her work.

With its large and unusual array of classrooms, offices and studios, as well as arts-production and exhibition spaces, the Center for the Arts will not only serve as the center for arts activities on the UB North Campus, but fill a unique niche among Western New York's arts-presentation spaces.

In addition to being a setting for a variety of distinguished performers and exhibitors from here and abroad, the center's public spaces will be used as rental facilities for community arts organizations.

The building houses classrooms; administrative offices; a student gallery; a television-production studio; a foundry; two dance studios; sculpture, computer-design, painting, video, audio-recording, etching and printmaking studios, and two 50-seat screening rooms. It has seven dressing rooms; costume, prop, scene and set shops; electric, audio, paint and storage shops; machine, assembly and finishing shops, and a variety of state-of-the-art darkrooms.

The Center for the Arts is also one of the most environmentally friendly buildings on UB's two campuses. In many rooms, sensors turn lights on when the room is entered and turn them off when it is vacated. Photo labs use an acid neutralization system that filters chemicals from water for appropriate disposal. Air and water temperatures are controlled by computers, and the air in the art labs is exchanged 40 times every hour, dispelling harmful fumes and dust.

• The 1,750-seat Mainstage theater, which will serve as a site for university productions, conferences and other events. It also will be available for major theatrical productions by outside groups, as well as for operas, concerts, musicals, dance concerts and major lectures. The stage has a full, moveable proscenium that allows a 15-foot variation in the height of the stage opening, 70-line sets and an 85-foot fly-tower.

A four-story-high custom-built orchestra shell is being constructed for this stage. Moveable panels are mounted on the auditorium walls and computer-operated to adjust the acoustics of the theater for various types of performances.

• The University Gallery, with 6,500 square feet of exhibition space on two floors, will present the work of national, regional and local artists; faculty and student work; commissioned work; traveling exhibitions, and selections from the university art collection.

• The first-floor Atrium Lobby, the length of which is spanned by a spectacular vaulted skylight, serves three theaters on the first level and offers a site for receptions and dining. The atrium capacity for a standing reception is 2,000. It can accommodate 600 seated guests for dinner. The atrium also houses a café that serves lunch and intermission refreshments, and a second-floor balcony lounge with full wet-bar that serves the Mainstage theater.

• The 400-seat Drama Theatre, which serves as the principle performance space for the UB Department of Theatre and Dance and will offer intimate performance space for plays, musicals, chamber operas and performances by touring companies.

• The 200-seat Screening Room supports programming by the UB Department of Media Study, and public presentations of film, video-arts productions, panel discussions, poetry readings and press conferences.

• The Green Room with full kitchen and an extensive paging and video system.

• The Black Box Theatre and Rehearsal Workshop Theatre each will accommodate 150 seats in any configuration. High-tension grids (in one theater) and catwalks (in the second) allow for the placement of lights, drapes and speakers in any arrangement, providing flexible space for integrated use, experimental theater, music and multimedia productions.

Media Contact Information

Patricia Donovan has retired from University Communications. To contact UB's media relations staff, call 716-645-6969 or visit our list of current university media contacts. Sorry for the inconvenience.