Dynamic new facilities at the Williams Arts Campus, where the College connects with downtown Easton, are boosting Lafayette’s programs in theater and film and media studies and enhancing artistic opportunities for students in all disciplines.
A striking new building under construction at 219 North Third St., scheduled for completion in December 2015, will house a black box theater and film screening room, along with a green room, lobby, and scene shop. Outdoor spaces for seating, sculpture, and performances are also in the plan.
Across the street, a new venue that includes a television/video production studio, rehearsal studio, media labs, editing studios, teaching spaces, and student gathering spaces was created by transforming a historic building at 248 N. Third. That work was completed in September.
These facilities complement the Williams Visual Arts Building, the art gallery and studio complex that opened in 2001, and the Ahart Family Arts Plaza, which opened in 2010. When the arts campus is complete, it will be a spectacular gateway to the Lafayette campus and the city.
“We now have the best in equipment, software, and facilities to help students learn how to become thoughtful, effective, ethical makers of media,” says Andy Smith, chair of film and media studies. “We are developing a community of media practitioners in which collaboration is central. We want to collaborate across disciplines to produce valuable contributions.”
Michael O’Neill, head of the theater department, says the new facilities will greatly enhance the experience of theater students. The flexibility to configure the audience seating in the black box will allow students to gain experience in designing and performing in a variety of settings. More theater workshops and student-directed performances may be staged, and performances scheduled for longer runs.
The expansion of the Williams Arts Campus is made possible by a $10 million lead gift from the Morris R. Williams ’22 family. During their lifetimes, the late Morris Williams and his wife, Josephine Chidsey Williams, provided the funding for Lafayette’s Williams Center for the Arts, which opened in 1983. Their children, Charles K. Williams II and Trustee Emerita Joan Williams Rhame, provided major support for the Williams Visual Arts Building.
The open-air arts plaza was dedicated in honor of Edward Ahart ’69, chair of the Board of Trustees, and his wife, Catherine Ahart P’97 ’03. It was showcased in the Prague Quadrennial of Performance Design and Space, a premier international exhibition featuring innovative projects from around the world, and named Building of the Year for 2014 in a web poll conducted by American- Architects.
The black box theater will be named for former Lafayette president Daniel H. Weiss and his wife, Sandra Jarva Weiss, thanks to a donation by the Board of Trustees honoring the couple. The film screening room will be named in honor of the late John W. Landis ’39 and his wife, Muriel T.S. Landis. William C. Buck ’50, the F.M. Kirby Foundation, and George P. (Sonny) Whelen P’10 are also major supporters of the arts campus.
The new facilities at the arts campus will increase the College’s space for the arts by almost 50 percent. Grants from The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation, totaling $1.25 million, are helping further integrate the arts into all areas of the curriculum.