Gunnery breaks ground on new arts and community center
WASHINGTON — Wearing a white hard-hat featuring the Gunnery’s crest, Tony-nominated producer Thomas S. Perakos broke ground Saturday on the school’s new arts and community center, which soon will bear his name.
“The adrenaline and the joy are indescribable,” Perakos said after the ceremony. “This building is going to unify and bring (the arts) to a state-of-the-art program, and it’s going to attract professors and a curriculum that will make it sing.”
Perakos, who graduated from the school in 1969, became the namesake for the 32,000-square-foot center after making a multimillion-dollar gift for it to be built.
Head of School Peter Becker told the crowd at the groundbreaking ceremony that since Perakos’ donation several months ago, the school has raised $16.5 million of its $22 million goal for the center.
“We needed someone to step up and believe in this project,” Becker said. “If it wasn’t for Tom ... we wouldn’t be here. It unleashed this passion and enthusiasm and the belief that we could get this thing done.”
Becker thanked other alumni, attending alumni weekend, who have made donations.
An alumni parade followed the ceremony, which came just one day before the Tony Awards, where musicals that Perakos was involved with are nominated for a combined 32 awards. He is personally nominated for Best Musical for “The Band’s Visit” and for Best Revival of a Musical for “Rodgers & Hammerstein’s Carousel”
The Thomas S. Perakos Arts and Community Center will also feature areas named for other donors, including a 415-seat performing arts theater named after the Tisch family and an art wing named after alumni Richard C. Colton Jr.
Construction will include relocating a parking lot and creating a landscaped “green space” between the building and the school’s dining hall.
Gunnery teachers and chairs of the performing arts, Jennifer Wojcik, and visual arts, Andrew Richards, told the crowd that the new space will take their programs to the next level.
The Gunnery’s arts program is held in different places all over campus. Wojcik said the new center will allow her to focus solely on the students during performances, rather than worrying about technical difficulties that often occur in the current spaces.
“(This is) going to be the next generation of art for our school and our families,” she said.
The plan for the arts center was first developed as part of the Gunnery’s long-term capital plan for adding to the school. The plan includes moving all facilities to the western side of Route 47 and creating new venues for certain programs.
“This is the first of what will hopefully be the start of more projects to transform our campus,” Becker said.