Visual Arts at Brewster Has a New Haven for Community, Creativity, and Collaboration

Visual Arts at Brewster Has a New Haven for Community, Creativity, and Collaboration
Kris Light

A new home for the visual arts at Brewster is about to open its doors. Phase 2 of the Reimagine Rogers initiative, the largest capital project in school history, is on schedule to be ready for students when they arrive in just a few short weeks. The new space is vast, occupying a level just below the main level of the Grayson Student Center currently in use, with a floorplan spanning the full footprint of the existing building. The work has been ongoing largely out of sight throughout last winter, spring, and this summer—and the features that will be revealed soon are spectacular: two multimedia classrooms, an enterprise-class dark room, eight soundproof music practice rooms/recording studios, and a large open art studio specially designated for painting. A student common area at the heart of this level will provide yet another space for connecting with peers and displaying student artwork.

From the beginning, the renovation of the Rogers space has been guided by a vision to transform the underutilized building into a haven for community, creativity, and collaboration. That goal is omnipresent in the design taking shape in the new lower level. “This space is going to give our students so much more opportunity to collaborate and become inspired by one another,” says arts faculty member Amy Hill. When the school year begins it will be the first time in recent Brewster history that all of the arts classes (with the exception of ceramics, coming in Phase 3) will be not only in the same building, but literally in view of one another thanks to floor-to-ceiling windows and adjoining doors. 

Alicia Childers, also of the arts department, expands on the possibilities, saying, “What one classroom is doing can illuminate what we would like to do in our class, or challenge us to think in new ways. I am really looking forward to utilizing these beautiful and well-intentioned classrooms now and into the future.” The lounge at the heart of the space will also play an integral role in actualizing the spirit of collaboration. Student artists and faculty can use the space to unwind between classes, connect about their work, share philosophies, participate in impromptu critiques, and take in artwork on display.

As part of the planning process, project managers and architects worked closely with faculty to ensure that the finished product would provide the resources, flexibility, and opportunities to support teachers in delivering a high-quality arts program for students. Peter Gilligan, Brewster’s Chief Technology and Operations Officer and key member of the leadership team on the project, cites this as a highlight. “From the beginning we have worked directly with the arts department. The building you see is the direct result of that collaboration. They have been integral to getting us to this amazing final design. Based on the success of this project, this collaboration method is the new standard here at Brewster.” 

This sentiment is corroborated by the members of the arts faculty. “We were able to have a say in everything from the floor finishes, to how tall our windows are, to what kind of table tops the workbenches have,” says Hill. “This process really made it possible to ensure the class spaces will work exactly how they need to for our students—it's the perfect example of intentional design.” Storage—the amount, where it’s situated, and the types—is an oft-cited example of this collaboration. It’s something that art teachers prioritize in their work that doesn’t always come across as a flashy feature. “I’m excited about it because of the opportunities it will provide; from being able to acquire new materials and tools for our students to use, to having a place for each student to be able to store and see their creative growth throughout the year.”

Perhaps most significant about the new home for the visual arts is its proximity to the center of campus life. An enduring objective of the Reimagined Rogers initiative was to bring the arts program to the students, making it more visible for those who may not otherwise have considered these disciplines, creating natural collisions that lead to unconsidered possibilities. Generous supporters who led the way in making this bold project a reality share this guiding vision and passion for increasing access to the arts. The importance of this closeness to the heart of the school is not lost on Childers, “People can saunter down from the student center upstairs to really see what students are doing in their day-to-day art classes. In the past, we felt a bit cut off from the daily rhythms of the academic space.” Hill adds, “I'm excited to see how this new space works to bring our community together around the arts in a facility that is both beautiful and open.” 

The Grayson Student Center, Faith Theater, and Coviello Dance Studio have already proven the Phase 1 spaces’ ability to bring Brewster’s community together around the arts, hosting an impressive list of events this past spring, including Coffee Houses, plays, musical performances, and art showcases, among others. And if the success of Phase 1 is any indication, we can hardly wait to see students feel this resounding impact even more with the newer Phase 2 level. Plus, there is still more to reveal as the project heads into its next phase. Says Gilligan, “I look forward to working together to make Phase 3 the perfect fit for everyone who will be using the building for the next 50 years and more.” For more information about the ongoing Reimagine Rogers project you can visit the project page by clicking here.


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