The University celebrated the opening of the new Lewis Arts complex with a dedication ceremony on Friday morning.

“The Lewis Center for the Arts sprang from the conviction that the arts enrich our lives, strengthen our connections with one another and the world around us, and engage our imaginations,” President Christopher Eisgruber '83 said.

Eisgruber added that the path towards the complex began more than a decade ago with the vision of former University President Shirley Tilghman to “seamlessly integrate the creative and performing arts into an undergraduate liberal arts education that is second to none.”

The 145,000-square-foot complex designed by Steven Holl Architects is situated near Alexander Street and University Place. It was made possible in part by a $101 million gift in 2006 from former University trustee Peter B. Lewis ’55, according to a University press release.

“Peter’s contributions to Princeton University are legendary. In addition to sharing his wisdom with us as a trustee, he greatly enhanced our campus and programs through his philanthropy,” Eisgruber said.

Lewis’s other contributions include Lewis Library and the Lewis-Sigler Institute for Integrative Genomics.

Michael Cadden, chair of the Peter B. Lewis Center for the Arts, said that Lewis was a source of light who lit up every room he walked into. He also recalled one of Lewis’s favorite quotes:

“Money is like manure. There’s no reason to keep it piled up. Its chief purpose is to be spread around and encourage young things to grow,” Cadden recalled.

Cadden said that when he arrived at the University as a “theater guy” to teach 35 years ago, he was an internationally ranked swimmer. He recalled visiting DeNunzio Pool at the time.

“The beautiful DeNunzio Pool told me how seriously Princeton took swimming… and I wondered where was the building that shows that it also takes the arts seriously? And here, 35 years later, it is,” Cadden said.

Lewis’s daughter Ivy Lewis said that Lewis would have loved the complex, especially since he loved the University, pushing boundaries, and encouraging creativity.

“This is an inspirational corner of campus. I look forward to seeing the boundaries of artistic innovation continue to expand here. All of this would have made Peter very happy,” Ivy Lewis said.

The Lewis family, Eisgruber, Tilghman, and Cadden then cut the ribbon to inaugurate the complex.

The complex comprises multiple buildings that supplement other arts spaces around campus and are connected at ground level by the Forum, an 8,000-square-foot open indoor gathering and informal performing space. Skylights in a pool above the Forum filter natural light into the space.

The complex mainly consists of three buildings — the Wallace Dance Building and Theater, the New Music Building, and the Arts Tower.

Wallace Dance Building and Theatre

The Wallace Dance Building and Theater now houses the Lewis Center for the Arts’ Programs in Dance, Theater, and Music Theater, as well as the Princeton Atelier, according to a press release from the University’s website.

This Wallace Dance Building and Theater was endowed by Monte Wallace ’53 and Neil Wallace ’55.

“The Wallaces have a long and distinguished history at Princeton and their name is closely linked to educational progress here from the renovations of laboratories to their generous assistance to the humanities and social sciences and creative arts,” Eisgruber said.

The Wallace brothers had previously endowed Wallace Hall, home to the Wilson School’s library and many of its research programs.

Monte Wallace said that when they first endowed Wallace Hall in 1998, he knew that they would live to see its inauguration. However, when they gave to the complex in 2012, they were unsure of living to see the ceremony, especially due to governmental entitlement issues that had arisen with the complex. However, they decided to give to the Dance Building and Theatre anyway because of their belief in the importance and power of the creative and performing arts.

“We are convinced that the participation of students in the creation or performance of art … will significantly enrich their educational experience. And not only their educational experience, but their lives after graduation,” Wallace said.

The Wallace Dance Building and Theater also includes the Wallace Theater and Hearst Dance Theater, which can seat 150 and 120 people, respectively. Both venues feature LED theatrical lighting, making them one of the first educational performing arts facilities in the region to adopt this technology.

New Music Building

The New Music Building supplements the Woolworth Center for Musical Studies by allowing the Department of Music to “expand its instructional, practice, and research facilities” according to a University press release

According to Eisgruber, this “magnificent new music building” provides “acoustically advanced practice rooms and teaching studios, and a digital recording studio.” He added that the building would serve as a permanent home to the Princeton University Orchestra and other groups including the Princeton University Jazz Ensemble and Princeton Laptop Orchestra.

Wendy Heller, chair of the music department, said that the idea of a space for the arts first came up in a 1985 report by former University President William Bowen GS ’58, where he claimed that the long-term nurturing of creativity and the arts on campus was constrained by the lack of a dedicated space.

“What these buildings do for us, what this extraordinary space does for us, is to… show our passion for music in a way that feels best… by actually feeling the music course through our bodies,” Heller added.

The New Music Building houses the Lee Music Performance and Rehearsal Room, providing rehearsal space for the Princeton University Orchestra and other ensembles, as well as space for chamber concerts. It also features a jazz studies studio, among several specialized teaching facilities, and practice rooms equipped with dozens of new pianos from Steinway & Sons.

Other Spaces

The Arts Tower of the complex, one of its main three buildings, includes the Hurley Gallery, administrative offices, and additional studios. It will host exhibitions of the Lewis Center’s Program in Visual Arts, which will also expand at 185 Nassau Street.

Other spaces in the complex were endowed by members of the University community, several of whom were present at the ceremony to cut the final ribbon together — Sandra Tsang Cohen ’89 and Andrew Cohen ’89, Wyck Godfrey ’90 and Mary Kerr ’90, Margaret Hearst and William Randolph Hearst III, John Hurley ’86, Anthony Lee ’79 and Sharon Lee, William Lucas ’83 and Melissa Friedman Lucas ’84, Joshua Rafner ’77, Michael Spies ’79, Shirley Tilghman, and Christopher Ghaffari ’12, who attended on behalf of his parents Paul and Lauren Ghaffari.

The complex also includes other spaces such as the CoLab — a flexible “white box” space for artistic and cross-disciplinary collaborations — and the PLOrk Studio, home of Princeton Laptop Orchestra.

New South will continue to host the Lewis Center’s Program in Creative Writing, according to a University press release.

The complex is part of a 22-acre development, the largest undertaken in the University’s history. The development also includes Cargot Brasserie and the Dinky Bar & Kitchen, located in two renovated train stations and operated by Fenwick Hospitality Group. 

The dedication ceremony was attended by donors, alumni, and public officials including New Jersey Governor and ex-officio University trustee Chris Christie. It was followed by a multi-day Festival of the Arts from Oct. 5 to 8 featuring over 100 concerts, plays, readings, dance performances, art exhibitions, multidisciplinary presentations, film screenings, community workshops, and site-specific events at venues across campus. 

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