Faculty, students, senior administration and local politicians gathered on Friday May 31st to celebrate the ground-breaking ceremony for the Marilyn I. Walker School of Fine and Performing Arts. With a budget of $39.6 million, the project will transform the former Canada Haircloth textile mill into an educational, creative and presentation complex of some 600 students, faculty and staff. Following the move to full construction mode in January 2012 the faculty, staff and students will begin their work in the innovative facility at 198 St. Paul in September 2015.
Noting that the new facility will be “an economic hub for arts and digital media” and fuel the revitalization of downtown St. Catharines, Jack Lightstone, President and Vice-Chancellor of Brock University, remarked told the gathering that the new Walker School “is a tribute to the concept of community partnership. This is much more than a building. It is a statement about what can happen when many hands work together to build a better future.”
Douglas Kneale, Dean of the Faculty of Humanities, described the new facility for the school as a “living, breathing furnace of innovation” where artists of all disciplines “collide creatively …like sparks off a flint.” He continued:
“In return, the community of St. Catharines will catch fire and experience in new ways the transcendence, the ache, the wow that only the arts can give us.”
The facility project includes the renovation of existing buildings, some of which date to the mid-19th century, and the construction of new purpose-built facilities. In order to preserve the visual appeal of the historic architecture much of the retrofitting and renovation will take place indoors. The landmark’s exterior will be refurbished with new windows and restored brickwork.
The project received $26.2 million from the Ontario government and is also being supported by generous partners from across the community. Marilyn I. Walker’s gift of $15 million was the remarkable catalyst for the creation of this much-anticipated complex that will serve the teaching, learning, and creative research in the fine and performing arts at Brock University.
As well as shared spaces such as the new MIWSFPA learning commons, digital media lab, and praxis lecture hall, the department of Dramatic Arts will enjoy four performance studios (two of which can be used for public presentation), a carpentry and woodworking shop, costume shop and storage facility, design studio, and a new flexible studio theatre for teaching and presentation twelve months of the year. The Department of Visual Arts will also be programming a new Visual Arts Exhibition Gallery, adjacent.
Students of the School will also be using the film/video theatre and music recital hall built by the City of St. Catharines in the adjacent Performing Arts Center also scheduled to open in 2015.
You can follow the construction of the Performing Arts Centre and the Marilyn I. Walker School of Fine and Performing Arts (top of screen) at the Performing Arts Centre Construction Cam.