Expansion of the Hopkins Center to provide improved art facilities

Work on the building will begin at the end of 2022.

by Penelope Spurr
| 02/19/21 02:00

With the February 10 announcement of the College’s plans for a $75 million expansion and renovation From the Hopkins Center for the Arts, community members can expect upgraded rehearsal and performance areas, improved gathering places, and an updated entrance.

The College first considered expanding the Hop “10 or 15 years ago,” with the goal of bringing all artistic disciplines together under one roof, Hop director Mary Lou Aleskie said. To address the arts scene — which Aleskie said “took over” the original Hop building — the College first built the Black Family Visual Arts Center in 2012, then completed renovations to the Hood Museum of Art in 2019. Now that those projects are complete, the College is making Project Hop a reality, Aleskie said.

The College currently plans to begin work on the building in late 2022, according to Aleskie, with the exact schedule expected to be ironed out by late fall. Dartmouth’s collaboration with Snøhetta, the Norwegian architectural firm that will oversee the expansion, is currently in the “very early stages”, she said. The COVID-19 pandemic has not impacted the project schedule.

Walter Cunningham, director of Hop’s Contemporary Pop Ensembles, said the College had narrowed down its design plans to two options. Although he and other Hop directors have not been directly involved in planning so far, he said he believes their input has been considered. Cunningham took part in the first roundtable of artistic leaders who met during the early planning stages of the Hop’s renovation more than a decade ago, and now that the project has resurfaced he plans to get involved. again in the planning process.

Cunningham said he’s optimistic the Hop project will emphasize the need for more rehearsal space. To cope with the current shortage, he resorted to rehearsals in his office, in the building’s garage, in the staff lounge and in the alumni hall, the last of which he described as “acoustically dead”.

Cunningham explained that since there is no permanently equipped space for performances, he is constantly faced with the “daunting” task of setting up sound systems in temporary spaces. This process can take an entire day, he said. As a result, he noted that “a lot of performances don’t happen because of the requirements for it to happen”.

He said he hopes the project will establish a space that he is permanently equipped for recording.

Aleskie said the expansion aims to “maintain the integrated nature of how the arts operates and … deliver it in a contemporary way that includes 21st century technologies and adaptability.”

She said the project will help bridge the “separation between audience and artists” through a “more hybrid experience”.

Environmental impact will play a role in the design process, Aleskie said, noting technologies such as digital ticketing and LED lighting in particular. Collaborating with Snøhetta — a firm “committed to careful analysis of the environmental and social effects of each phase of a project,” according to its website — enables the College to create expansion with impact in mind, Aleskie said. .

The project has so far been well received by Hop’s student community.

Noah Campbell ’21, both a student artist and an employee of The Hop, said the College’s announcement has created “a lot of excitement” among students, as The Hop not only serves as a “hub” for the arts, but also social space, study space and home of the Hinman Mail Center.

Polly Chesnokova ’24, who plans to major in film, is also hopeful about the project’s impact.

“Snøhetta’s renovation is a sign of the administration’s support for the arts on campus, and I’m thrilled to see it in action,” she said. “Art is an inherently collaborative process, so it’s crucial for students and faculty to have an accessible space to produce and experience it.”

Cunningham added that he hopes the expansion and renovation will improve accessibility and “remove the barrier to entry” that can hinder student participation in the arts.

Campbell noted that Hop’s current design can feel “stiff”, which he says can be “discouraging for people who really just want to pick up guitars and sing or participate in any kind of artistic expression in a more relaxed”.

For Campbell, the uncertainty brought by COVID-19 has only heightened the importance of the arts. The project, he said, seeks to “integrate the arts into [the] new normal that we are beginning to cultivate.

William E. Bennett