What’s happening with the Gordon Center?

Colby is in the process of building a hotel in downtown Waterville. The shiny new Athletic Center is set to open in fall of 2020. However, there is another on-campus development which is coming down the line. In three years, the Mary Low parking lot will have been transformed into a brand new campus building: the Gordon Center for Creative and Performing Arts.

People entering campus from the south end of Mayflower Drive will be immediately met with the Gordon Center. This placement was intentional, according to Vice President of Planning Brian Clark.

“[The Gordon Center is] close to the center of campus, but it’s also one of the first gateways to campus as you come on,” Clark said in an interview with the Echo. “I think that signals something really important about the commitment to the arts and the humanities at Colby. From that side of Mayflower Hill, you’re going to see the Gordon Center. You come up the other side, and you’ve got the Colby College Museum of Art. So you’ve got this campus that’s framed by these incredibly important arts programs, the Museum, the Gordon Center, and to me that signals such an important part about who Colby is and who Colby’s going to be in the future.” 

Part of the Center’s goal, according to Clark, is to provide the infrastructure for Colby to be the liberal arts destination for studying the arts.

“The need for really strong performing arts facilities at Colby is a need that predated me, and has been a priority for a long time, and we need to get it done,” President of the College David Greene told the Echo. “It’s really a mixed bag when it comes to our facilities. Music does not have facilities that are appropriate for its program, theater has better facilities but not great [ones]… The opportunity for places like theater and dance and music, along with cinema studies, to really rethink their entire curriculum by having first to be together in a building, which they’re not now, and then to be able to think about how their programs can develop and change over time, that was really important.” 

Greene also hopes the Center will help show the world, and prospective students, Colby’s continuing commitment to the arts.

“There’s probably some extraordinarily talented group of students who right now look at Colby and say that’s just my kind of place, except it has not made the kind of investment in its arts facilities and programs that I’m looking for. I want those students to consider Colby and for us to be able to support them.” 

The Gordon Center is exactly the kind of investment  that Greene believes will draw students to the College and encourage collaboration.

“I think of the building as a mega-maker space. It’s filled with different labs and equipment to facilitate a broad range of work that we can’t do right now, and that includes professional partnerships.” Jim Thurston, Associate Professor of Theater and Dance, told the Echo. The Center will house the music, theater and dance, and cinema studies programs together in the same building, a move which Thurston hopes will encourage interdisciplinary collaboration.

“[It] offers a community of creative thinkers under one roof and the access to inviting other people into that space, so there’s more opportunities chance encounters.” He also notes that this change of venue could cause radical changes in the theater and dance program’s majors in minors. Having access to such extensive facilities will enable the program to do more than it ever has. 

“The arts and humanities and the performing arts can offer the campus more, with that idea of problem solving and collaboration, than we do now.” Thurston said. Not only this, but Thurston predicts that the center may “raise Colby’s profile” on a larger scale, drawing professionals from all over the world, who could then broaden the experience of students even further.

The Gordon Center will be by no means a space exclusively for Colby arts majors and minors.

“Even the building itself the way we’ve designed it is with a lot of transparency and a lot of glass and other things to kind of invite you in.” Greene said. Plus, he adds, the Gordon Center will provide a much-needed large convening space, a facility that Colby doesn’t currently have.

“At the larger level, the hope is that every student here will have some experience with the arts and the humanities and the performing arts that’s more profound than it is right now.” Thurston said. 

The Gordon Center will also serve as a bridge to the community in conjunction with Alfond Commons, the Paul J. Schupf Art Center, the Waterville Opera House, and the greater Central Maine community.

So when will it be completed? Brian Clark says they plan to “move dirt” this coming summer. Being a complicated construction project, it’s not set to be finished until 2022. Until then, students can only dream of the Gordon Center’s glory.