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Education

New Wolfe Center provides home for creativity, collaboration

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    The windows of the Wolfe Center's dance classroom are reflected in mirrors on both sides of the room.

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  • wolfe-morgan-russel-theater

    Simon Morgan-Russell, dean of BGSU College of Arts and Sciences, explains the modern features inside the Eva Marie Saint Theater.

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    The Wolfe Center is nearing completion after two years of construction.

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wolfe-dance-classroom-mirrors

The windows of the Wolfe Center's dance classroom are reflected in mirrors on both sides of the room.

The Blade/Lori King
Enlarge | Buy This Image

BOWLING GREEN — With its sleek shiny exterior, the Wolfe Center for the Arts has taken center stage on Bowling Green State University’s campus of solemn brick buildings.

In just over a month, the $41 million collaborative arts space will welcome students, faculty, staff, and the community after more than two years of construction.

"I’m very excited, and I think the students will be excited about the facility. I think it will really validate them and their educational and career directives," said Eileen Cherry-Chandler, associate professor in the Theatre and Film department at the university. "The facility is an acknowledgement of how important the creative arts is to this campus."

Instructors say the new space will offer students an improved learning environment.

PHOTO GALLERY: BGSU's new Wolfe Center

"There’s going to be available to us, a lot of technical options we haven’t had before," said Jonathan Chambers, associate professor in the Department of Theatre and Film at BGSU. "It’s going to be nice to be in a space that’s state of the art. We’ve been working in facilities that are out of date and doing the best we can."

Designed by international architecture firm Snøhetta, the center covers about 93,000 square feet and features two theaters, a rehearsal room, about a dozen classrooms, a costume workshop, a set design space, staff offices and several common areas.

It will be home to Department of Theatre and Film, providing a space for students and faculty to learn and work on theatrical, dance, musical, film and digital arts productions.

With offices and classrooms for several departments, the interior of the center is designed to foster collaborations among students across a range of creative disciplines and encourage social intermingling.

wolfe-exterior-sunlight

The Wolfe Center is nearing completion after two years of construction.

The Blade/Lori King
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"Part of the mission of this building is to support collaborative efforts," said Katerina Rüedi Ray, director of the School of Art. "The goal is that over time, we begin to build up collaborative relationships that cross over all platforms."

Upon entering the building, eyes rise upward and are confronted with a public art piece. The Eternal in the central lobby is a photograph of horizon blown up more than 1,000 times and divided into 38 panels. A sister piece with a similar look is paneled on a nearby wall.

The Eternal runs alongside a dramatic staircase that features oversized platforms for seating. These landings are places to hang out and relax. The central lobby is also home to the center’s box office.

A chorale practice and performance room features acoustic wall coverings from Switzerland and a sprung wooden floor for performing.

"This room was designed specifically for acoustic purposes," said Ryan Miller, project manager for the BGSU Office of Design and Construction. "We’re going to add acoustic draping and theatrical lighting. And as you can see, even when it’s empty, it doesn’t produce an echo," he said while hosting a tour.

Also on the first floor is the center’s two theaters, the Donnell Theatre and the Eva Marie Saint Theatre. They boast the names of benefactors of the university and the project. Other benefactors of the project are local philanthropist Marjorie Conrad and Frederic and Mary Wolfe, of Perrysburg.

The total project was budgeted at $41 million, and so far is under budget, Miller said. Construction was funded in part by state funds.

The Donnell Theatre houses the main stage where traditional types of theater and main performances will take place. It has 400 seats, some of which are on a pneumatic lift to allow for different configurations. The small house will allow for more intimate performances, said Simon Morgan-Russell, dean of the College of Arts and Sciences.

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Simon Morgan-Russell, dean of BGSU College of Arts and Sciences, explains the modern features inside the Eva Marie Saint Theater.

The Blade/Lori King
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"It’s a smaller house, but the trade-off is that you get the better technology and more state-of-the-art equipment," Morgan-Russell said. "Our students will not graduate and go somewhere that has better equipment."

The current theaters are housed in several campus buildings, one of which used to be a gym, Miller said.

"The old facilities weren’t designed to be theater spaces," he said. "We were able to start from scratch and get what we need to have an effective theater space."

A corridor behind the theater leads to the School of Art on the south end and the College of Music to the north.

The Eva Marie Saint Theatre has only about 100 seats, most of which are on a hydraulic floor. The theater also includes a lighting grid for students to hang theatrical lights safely and learn about the craft of lighting, Morgan-Russell said.

Several performances are already scheduled at the Eva Marie Saint, including The Arabian Nights in February.

Along the corridor is the costume shop, where students can make, dye, and store performance gear, and dressing rooms. The set design workshop features doors 20 feet high to allow sets to be wheeled from the workshop to the theaters.

In the old building, sets had to be built on the stage, Morgan-Russell said.

An audio system allows performance to be piped into classrooms and hallways through out the building.

The second level consists mainly of faculty offices and classrooms. A video lab with high-end equipment is the result of resources pooled across the departments. The second floor is also home to a dance studio, made possible by the estate of Margit Heskett, a former instructor at the school. The room features mirrored walls, wood flooring, and a glass wall so guests can sometimes watch work taking place.

The window-laced front facade allows natural light to pour into the building and connects students and guest with the outside world. "It’s a way of making the world of art visible," Rüedi Ray said.

The landscaping around the building features concrete spaces for public sculptures. A sloped grass hill runs up the back of the building, providing plenty of green space and leads to a roof-top plaza with seating and performance space. A side view of the building makes it appear as if it is emerging from the ground, with its low back and raised front.

"This just adds to an incredible collection of buildings in Ohio," Rüedi Ray said of the structure. "It’s an indication of the campuses aspirations of expanding access to quality.

"I just can’t believe it’s here."

Contact RoNeisha Mullen at: rmullen@theblade.com or 419-724-6133.

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