Articles tagged with: Marilyn I. Walker School of Fine and Performing Arts

  • With construction finished, Brock’s new downtown arts school gets ready to educate

    (Source: The Brock News, Monday, June 1, 2015. Photo: Music student Grace Snippe performs during a media tour of the Marilyn I. Walker School for the Fine and Performing Arts on Friday. A videographer from CHCH in Hamilton zooms in.)

    On 15 May 2015, after more than two years of construction, a major project in downtown St. Catharines was granted formal occupancy by the city’s building department.

    At that moment, the new home of Brock University’s Marilyn I. Walker School of Fine and Performing Arts officially stopped being a building project and began life as a dynamic educational facility.

    The keys were handed over, and the University became responsible for everything from security guards to providing Wi-Fi, switching on the lights and cleaning the restrooms.

    Brock University President Jack Lightstone calls the MIWSFPA a landmark development for Brock and Niagara.

    “For Brock, it provides another purpose-built facility serving the very specialized needs of the school, like the Cairns Complex has done for science and health science,” he said. “For Niagara, it is a landmark in what a university and a city government can achieve in a close working partnership to bring new life and a new economic base to St. Catharines’ downtown core.”

    The five-storey school is partly new construction and partly restored heritage buildings, including a 19th-century textile mill. But it’s all state-of-the-art, from the new 235-seat performing arts theatre to its digital media studios, photo darkrooms, instrumental music rooms and any other number of specialized facilities needed to support the development of students within numerous genres of dramatic arts, music and visual arts.

    The project was designed by Diamond Schmitt Architects, who have been the visionaries behind entertainment complexes in cities from Toronto and Montreal to St. Petersburg, Russia.

    “The adaptive re-use of this fine heritage structure is bringing to life innovations in dramatic arts education that demonstrate the value of preserving this building in the revitalization of St. Catharines,” said Michael Leckman, principal, Diamond Schmitt Architects.

    The inaugural wave of 500 students won’t arrive for another three months, but from now until September the Walker School will bustle with activity.

    Just furnishing an empty 93,700-square-foot complex will take weeks, and once the moving trucks have stopped unloading, faculty and staff members relocating from the Walker School’s current home on the main Brock campus will scramble to get settled and organized for a September they will always remember.

    The ambitious $45.5-million project was made possible by a $26.2-million investment from the Ontario government as well as a $15-million transformational gift from local textile artist and philanthropist Marilyn I. Walker.

    Walker, who recently got her first tour of the completed project, said she was extremely pleased with the final result.

    “It’s a challenge to your imagination to comprehend what all could be done within this building when it comes to educating students,” she said. “It’s not what the physical building means so much as the opportunities it will provide … the possibilities for using these state-of-the art facilities for the benefit of the community.”

    Official opening ceremonies are being planned for mid-September, during Brock’s Homecoming Weekend, and University officials are also working on plans for public tours of the landmark facility, probably sometime in the fall.

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    Categories: In the Media, News

  • Almost ready for the big move!

    University architect and project manager Scott Roper leading the tour outside of the Learning Commons of the new facility of the Marilyn I. Walker School of Fine and Performing Arts in downtown St.Catharines.

    The four programs of the Marilyn I. Walker School of Fine and Performing Arts — Dramatic Arts, Music, Studies in Arts and Culture, and Visual Arts — are counting down to the big move to the new facility at 198 St. Paul in downtown St. Catharines.  The trucks start rolling at the end of this month.  To say we are excited would be an understatement!

    On May 29, 2015 we invited student and media to join us for a tour of the new facilities. Take a look at these reports from CHCH TelevisionCogeco “The Source”, the St. Catharines Standard, and the Brock News.

    We also invite you to have a look at the following slide show of photos taken by the Chair of Dramatic Arts, David Vivian:


    For more information please contact Marie Balsom.

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    Categories: Alumni, Future Students, In the Media, News

  • Our New Home

    The future of Niagara starts now with a Home for the Arts

    New facilities will soon be opened by the City of St. Catharines and Brock University to serve all of Niagara. This partnership will open a major arts cluster in downtown St. Catharines.  The City is constructing the First Ontario Performing Arts Centre at St.Paul and Carlisle Streets.  Brock University’s Marilyn I. Walker School of Fine and Performing Arts (MIWSFPA) will move to the adjacent site of the former Canada Hair Cloth factory.
    The project is set to revitalize the urban growth centre of Niagara, add a major new cultural attractor to our region and serve artists, students and audience members from across the peninsula. The specialized, purpose-built and professionally managed facility will present, promote and develop the arts in Niagara.

    For the most up-to-date information about this exciting project see
    Also see these site tour pictures: The new Performing Arts Centre  and  The new MIWSFPA at 198 St. Paul.

    Here is a recent slide show of the new facility:


    Conceptual Renderings

    Elevations of the project under construction for completion in 2015.
    Images are sourced from
    Drawings by Diamond + Schmitt Architects.

    UPDATE: City of St. Catharines Performing Arts Centre (PAC): Images presented at the Project Open House, September and October 2011.  Future students of the MIWSFPA will be learning and performing in the Recital Hall and the Film/Video Theatre of the PAC. Adjacent to the city-built PAC is the new home of the Marilyn I. Walker School of Fine and Performing Arts. Click on a thumbnail to view a larger image.

    Drawings by Diamond + Schmitt Architects.

    Site and Venues

    The Canada Hair Cloth Building is the chosen site for the MIW SFPA, and the St. Catharines Performing Arts Centre is planned for property at the corner of Carlisle and St. Paul Street. Links between the two facilities are part of the conceptual plans.

    Five distinct arts discipline-specific performance venues are planned:

    • 900-seat concert hall
    • 300-seat recital hall (for the MIW SFPA with some community access)
    • 300-seat theatre venue (MIW SFPA)
    • 250-seat dance/theatre venue
    • 200-seat film venue (shared access)

    The project also includes new classrooms, studio space and all the additional spaces required for the Music, Theatre and Visual Arts programs at Brock, as well as office space, rehearsal hall, a café and lobby space for the PAC and community arts organizations.

    Video Teasers

    ..not so long ago this was the view into our new facility . . .


    A recent tour of the historic Haircloth building in downtown St. Catharines drew a crowd. The building is about to be transformed into the site of Brock’s Fine & Performing Arts programs.



    Provincial funding announced for the Marilyn I. Walker School of Fine and Performing Arts

    April 14, 2010 — St. Catharines MPP Jim Bradley announced that the Ontario government will provide $26.2 million over four years to help build a new home for the Marilyn I. Walker School of Fine and Performing Arts. The funding is a major breakthrough for the university and the community. The new Marilyn I. Walker School is being built in partnership with the City of St. Catharines, which will build a civic Niagara Centre for the Arts on the other half of the downtown site. This combined project will revitalize and rejuvenate the downtown core through the renovation of heritage buildings and construction of new performance and staging facilities including a dedicated theatre, rehearsal, teaching and research studios. More than 500 full-time students and faculty will relocate to this new facility, freeing up much needed space for other programs at Brock’s main campus in south St. Catharines.  (from The Brock News)

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    Categories: Announcements, News

  • Transportation Options for Students travelling from the MIWSFPA Downtown and Main Campuses

    transportation-options-for-students_thChange is coming, and we are very excited!

    This spring we will begin preparing our new facility at 198 St. Paul in downtown St. Catharines. If you are new to St. Catharines, or are thinking about possible changes to parking and transportation because you will be attending classes at the downtown location, take a look at this information sheet we prepared for the Spring 2015 Open House.

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  • News of the downtown project

    New facilities for the Marilyn I. Walker School of Fine and Performing Arts

    In February 2011, Diamond & Schmitt Architects of Toronto were chosen to design the new teaching and learning facilities for the faculty, staff, and students of the Marilyn I. Walker School of Fine and Performing Arts in the heart of the historic centre of St. Catharines.

    Rehabilitating the former Canada Hair Cloth building for multi-purpose use by the departments of Dramatic Arts, Music, Visual Arts and the Centre for Studies in Arts and Culture, these new facilities will provide state-of-the-art production and workshop support, music practice facilities, art studios, lecture and seminar rooms as well as a versatile stand-alone 235-seat theatre for drama students.

    The City of St. Catharines is developing an adjacent Performing Arts Centre (PAC) for which Diamond & Schmitt will also serve as lead architect. Comprising a 775-seat Concert Hall, a 300-seat Recital Hall, a 187-seat Film Theatre and a 210-seat Community Dance Theatre, these facilities will greatly enhance the already strong theatrical and musical offerings in the City of St. Catharines. Under a unique joint agreement with the City of St. Catharines, the Marilyn I. Walker School of Fine and Performing Arts will have use of the Recital Hall and the Film Theatre in support of its academic programs.

    We invite you to follow the project’s progress and look forward to moving into our new facilities in May 2015.

    Please consider attending one of our Open Houses in October or March, or consult the programs comprising the Marilyn I. Walker School of Fine and Performing Arts for further information.


    Support the School with your donations

    The Marilyn I. Walker School of Fine and Performing Arts will be moving to new purpose-designed facilities located in downtown St. Catharines’ historical Canada Hair Cloth building in May 2015. Designed by the prestigious Toronto-based firm Diamond & Schmitt Architects, the project provides state-of-the-art studio, digital lab, performance, recital, practice, lecture, design and workshop spaces for students in the departments of Dramatic Arts, Music, Visual Arts and our Centre for Studies in Arts and Culture.

    Students and faculty can benefit in a myriad of different ways from the generosity of our donors, including donations made in support of our new downtown school, endowed scholarships, sponsorships of lectures series or programs, and gifts of special equipment, musical instruments or works of art. Donations in support of Brock University and its educational mission are always greatly appreciated.

    Should you wish to help support us we have identified three funding priorities:

    1. The building project
    2. Student awards and scholarships
    3. Research and creativity – sponsorships in support of lecture series, performances, or exhibitions

    For more information regarding how to donate, please click here.

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  • Halfway home: It’s good news for Brock’s downtown arts school

    (Source: The Brock NewsTuesday, February 11, 2014)

    The construction of Brock University’s new arts school in downtown St. Catharines has passed the midway point, as workers have kept the major project moving along despite this winter’s harsh weather.

    Three senior University officials appeared before St Catharines City Council on Monday Feb 10 with an update on the $45-million project that will house the Marilyn I. Walker School of Fine and Performing Arts.

    And their news was good.

    “We’re on time, and we’re on budget,” said Brian Hutchings, Vice-President of Finance and Administration, who joined President Jack Lightstone and Humanities Dean Douglas Kneale for the council presentation. Hutchings said the Walker School is still scheduled to be open for September 2015.

    Lightstone, who first proposed the idea of twin downtown arts projects when he appeared in the same council chamber seven years ago, said the urban-centre location lets the University play a role in helping local communities. The University and City worked together to find a site for the Brock project in an industrial heritage building, the former Canada Hair Cloth plant.

    “Brock University is proud to be a partner and supporter of St Catharines, and indeed of Niagara,” said Lightstone. “For years Brock has publicly stated that one of our top priorities is to help strengthen our host communities intellectually, socially, culturally and economically.”

    Kneale said creating a new centre of learning in the shell of an old industrial site is a “perfect metaphor” that will help future generations become part of Canada’s billion-dollar cultural sector.

    “We are taking a 19th-century textile factory and turning it into a state-of-the-art facility for more than 500 students,” said Kneale. “Opportunities like this happen but once in a lifetime.”

    As part of the presentation, city councillors viewed a video presentation on the project done by Tracy van Oosten, a Brock graduate of visual arts and film studies.

    At the worksite, the full footprint of the Walker School is now visible. The main structure for the project’s new construction – mainly, the new dramatic arts theatre – is up, and now workers will largely focus on the complex interior work in all of the buildings, the most time-consuming being the renovation and repurposing of the older structures.

    The University and City arts projects were the initial catalysts of a massive downtown renewal initiative, which now also includes the Meridian Centre, a 4,500-seat ice rink and spectator facility expected to be completed this autumn.

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  • Marilyn I. Walker School of Fine and Performing Arts is breaking new ground


    From left: Douglas Kneale, Dean, Faculty of Humanities; John Suk, Vice-Chair, Brock Board of Trustees; Jack Lightstone, Brock University President and Vice-Chancellor; Jim Bradley, MPP, St. Catharines; Marilyn I. Walker; Mark Elliott, councilor, City of St. Catharines; Joe Robertson, Chair, Brock Board of Trustees; Derek Knight, director, Marilyn I. Walker School of Fine and Performing Arts.

    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.

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  • New Walker series opens doors for arts students and the public


    February 12, 2013
    Marilyn I. Walker School of Fine and Performing Arts
    905.688.5550 x4765

    New Walker series opens doors for arts students and the public

    A major series of cultural events, workshops and performances being launched this fall by Brock University will provide new learning experiences for students, and in many cases will also be open to the public.

    The Walker Cultural Leader Series will see leading artists, performers and academics convene more than a dozen events in disciplines ranging from animation to classical music and theatrical performance. The events will take place on campus as well as in the community.

    Presented by Brock’s Marilyn I. Walker School of Fine and Performing Arts (MIWSFPA), the series opens Oct. 16-19 with workshops, studio visits and performances by Sobey Award-winning performer and animator Daniel Barrow.

    The series will also feature presentations by Joan Watson, principal horn of the Canadian Opera Company; performer and author Stephen Nachmanovitch; acclaimed Canadian pianist Robert Silverman; and Daniel Levinson, an expert in movement and stage combat.

    The new series is being funded thanks to the Marilyn I. Walker Fund, an endowed fund created in 2008, when Marilyn Walker donated $15 million to Brock’s school of fine and performing arts.

    Derek Knight, director of the Walker School, said the main objective of the series is to engage students, but pointed out many sessions are open to the community.

    “The new series is committed to inviting varied and interesting guest speakers,” said Knight. “It will be engaging, lively and erudite. These sessions celebrate professional achievement, artistic endeavour and the indelible role of culture in our society.”

    Douglas Kneale, Dean of Humanities at the University, said the initiative is another step forward for Brock on the academic, cultural and community fronts.

    “Thanks to the generosity of Marilyn I. Walker, we are able to offer students unique interactions with creative leaders in the fine and performing arts, and also extend to the community educational and cultural opportunities that will be enormously enriching.”

    The Marilyn I. Walker School of Fine and Performing Arts is comprised of the departments of Dramatic Arts, Music, Visual Arts, and the Centre for Studies in Arts & Culture.

    For more info and follow-up interviews: Marie Balsom, Communications, Marilyn I. Walker School of Fine and Performing Arts, Brock University, 905-688-5550 x4765;


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  • Brock signs contract with construction firm for downtown fine and performing arts facility project

    (Source: The Brock NewsFriday, January 18, 2013 | by . Photo: An artist’s rendering of the Marilyn I. Walker School for the Fine and Performing Arts)

    Earlier today, Brock University finalized a construction contract with Bird Construction Group to build its new fine and performing arts facility in downtown St. Catharines.

    Activity at the site of the old Canada Hair Cloth textile mill at 198 St. Paul Street is expected to start the week of Jan. 21, 2013, with site preparations beginning in early February.

    Construction bids for the project were received in October 2012 and all bids were over the University’s budget. Brock then entered into successful negotiations with Bird Construction, the low bidder for the new home of the University’s Marilyn I. Walker School of Fine and Performing Arts facility, to reduce construction costs and move the project forward.

    A groundbreaking ceremony to mark the official start of the project is expected to take place mid-February.

    The new facility will put about 500 students, faculty and staff into the city’s downtown when it relocates from Brock’s main campus. The new school will be adjacent to a new Performing Arts Centre and Spectator Facility, which are being built by the City of St. Catharines.

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  • Brock welcomes more community partners to downtown project

    Artist's rendering of the Marilyn I. Walker School for the Fine and Performing Arts

    An artist’s rendering of the Marilyn I. Walker School for the Fine and Performing Arts showing the new theatre for the Department of Dramatic Arts.

    (Source: The Brock NewsWednesday, June 20, 2012 | by )

    As Brock University prepares to select a contractor for its new arts school in central St. Catharines, community members are coming forward to financially back a project many people see as being a crucial bridge to future economic and cultural health.

    This summer, contractors will be invited to bid on the major job of renovating and expanding the old Canada Hair Cloth textile mill into the new home for Brock’s Marilyn I. Walker School of Fine and Performing Arts. Work is to begin this fall.

    Besides relocating 500 students, faculty and staff into the downtown, the new school will also complement and share some facilities with a public Performing Arts Centre being built by the City of St. Catharines on an adjacent lot. Both projects are scheduled for completion in 2014.

    Brock’s school has a construction budget of $39.6 million. The Ontario government has given $26.1 million to the project, and the University is continuing efforts to raise more than $10-million to pay its share.

    Important supporters of the Brock project were revealed today when it was announced that three donors with strong ties to the community and Brock University are making gifts totaling more than a quarter-million dollars.

    Peter and Janet Partridge are giving $100,000 to the project. Art and Val Fleming have also committed $100,000. And the St. Catharines law firm of Lancaster Brooks & Welch is donating $75,000 to the new school.

    Peter Partridge, Vice President and Portfolio Manager with RBC Dominion Securities and a past member of Brock’s Board of Trustees, said their gift is a way of giving back to the community.

    “To have a cultural campus strategically positioned in the heart of the downtown is very important,” he said. “This is going to bring a whole new level of artistic experience not only to young performers but to an audience here in Niagara.”

    The Flemings are also eager to see the Walker School flourish.

    “We really believe in Brock,” said Val, a Brock graduate and past member of the Board of Trustees. “We especially want the Walker project to succeed. It’s a wonderful opportunity, and we believe the downtown will definitely be rejuvenated because of it.”

    At the offices of Lancaster Brooks Welch, senior partner Dave Edwards said the law firm believes the benefits of the new school will be more than economic.

    “This will change the culture of the city centre for the better by bringing students into the downtown during normal working hours,” said Edwards, a former member and chair of the Brock Board of Trustees. “It will provide an integration that’s entirely different compared to when they’re only downtown at nighttime.

    “It makes you think of Kingston, and how students there are often in the downtown during the day. This will help our restaurants, stores, coffee shops, and bring a new vibrancy to the downtown throughout the day.”

    Douglas Kneale, Dean of the Faculty of Humanities at Brock and a member of the committee overseeing the University’s downtown project, said the support is very heartening and much-needed.

    “The truth is, we really are all in this together, this strengthening of the community,” said Kneale. “And when you have partners like these marvelous people, it is this kind of support that helps make these dreams come true for everybody.”

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