The Gunnery unveils designs for new arts and community center
Updated 3:43 pm, Thursday, September 14, 2017
WASHINGTON — The Gunnery’s largest capital project in size and price can now be envisioned with the release of the architect’s renderings for a 29,000-square-foot arts and community center.
The center will feature large glass windows and a stone-clad exterior that will blend into the campus while still creating a unique presence.
“With the arts, you want to build spaces that spark creativity and are different,” said Ken Mason, The Gunnery’s director of strategic marketing and communications.
The designs were unveiled with the announcement that the building would be named the Thomas S. Perakos Arts and Community Center, in honor of the alumnus who made the multi-million gift for the center.
Perakos, who graduated in 1969 and has a strong theater background both at the school and professionally, said he was drawn to the project after learning about it in the new campus master plan.
“In my opinion, this is a definite game-changer for Gunnery students and for the generations to follow,” he said in a release. “It will provide this wonderful school with the facilities to deliver a distinguished, diversified and unique curriculum. The performing arts program at The Gunnery is currently thriving and soon it will have a venue to match its caliber and advance it to its greatest potential.”
With Perakos’s gift, the school is almost at the halfway mark for fundraising. Another $11.75 million is needed to cover the $22 million cost.
Construction is expected to start in June and be completed by September 2019.
Kiersten Marich, The Gunnery’s director of leadership giving, said it’s an exciting time for the school, which is thankful for Perakos’s involvement and donation. She said he has always expressed an interest in helping the school and wanted the center to be his legacy.
“He has a deep passion for the arts and the school as well,” she said.
Creating a community and arts center became a priority for the school through the strategic planning process, which began about a year and a half ago.
Mason said the planning team realized the need for a central space where everyone could gather. Currently, the school community gathers in the gym or performances are held in a smaller, older theater.
“The facilities that exist now are old and outdated,” Mason said. “They’re small and don’t serve the needs of the school today.”
The Gunnery offers 30 arts courses. Students must experience a number of them as part of their graduation requirements, but Mason expects the participation in the visual and performing arts to grown once the center is finished.
The center will include a professional-grade theater with 415 seats — enough for the entire school community and guests. Mason said he hopes it will attract outside performers and speakers and be used by the community as well.
The center includes instrumental and choral rehearsal rooms and practice rooms. The theater area includes a catwalk, dressing room, control room and shop to create sets. Staff offices and study spaces are included, as well as outdoor sculpture garden, patio and plaza.
A formal gallery space will be at the entrance and informal galleries will allow the school to display students’ artwork throughout the building, including hallways. The large room at the entrance, nicknamed the hearth, will be open to the community and can be adjusted to accommodate various group sizes.
The center will have studios for photography, graphic arts, ceramics, as well as drawing and painting.
“It’s nice that we have the spaces dedicated to these arts,” Mason said.