Peabody Opens to the Public
The transformation from insular institution to community anchor is nearly complete.
|Opening Photo: The focal point of the Grand Arcade is its sweeping staircase, whose ornate ironwork — here still wrapped during construction — complements the bannisters in the conservatory building.||
The walk past the dumpsters, through the guarded iron
gates, in the back door, and around a maze of corridors and
stairways on your way — finally — to the
Friedberg Concert Hall was worth it when you wanted to see
Institute's stellar performances. But it wasn't the
most welcoming beginning to a concert experience.
Fortunately, a recent overhaul has made that path a lot
|The arcade is located in what was dead space between the conservatory and library buildings.||
Beginning this month, visitors to Peabody will enter
through the restored original entrance on Mount Vernon
Place and stroll through the Grand Arcade, a dramatic,
light-filled space that connects the campus's historic
buildings. Designed by architect Michael Quinn to be
Peabody's "main street," the glass-covered arcade features
the Rouse Visitors Center, an expanded box office, and
cascading staircases — all carved out of what was
formerly unused outdoor space.
The renovation project — which took three years and
cost $26.8 million — started somewhat modestly, when
administrators realized that the buildings were showing
their age. (Peabody was founded in 1857.) Not only were
they badly in need of upgrades to electrical, HVAC, and
plumbing systems; but there was a serious lack of
performance, rehearsal, and office space.
|At right, Gustav Meier leads the Conductor's Orchestra through a class in the renovated East Hall. The space is acoustically sound, big enough to accommodate large ensembles, and connected directly to the recording studio — a great improvement over the original East Hall (below, right), which was "a ramshackle, broken-down space," says Sirota.||
The project created new performance and rehearsal space, and enhanced existing space with soundproofing and state-of-the-art acoustics. New walkways make it possible to get anywhere on campus without going outside (which can be important to students carrying expensive instruments). A new gallery entrance will be used for public exhibitions, and the concert and ensemble offices are now closer to the Friedberg stage. All these improvements make the buildings not only more user-friendly, but also worthy of the world-class institution they house.
Peabody is located in Baltimore's Mount Vernon Cultural
District, along with the Walters Art Museum, the Maryland
Historical Society, the Eubie Blake National Jazz
Institute, Center Stage, and others. Peabody wants to be a
good neighbor, which makes this renovation about more than
buildings. "It's a metaphor for growth and change at
Peabody in general," says Sirota. "We really are seeking to
be a more engaged member of the community. We see Peabody
as emblematic of the role that cultural institutions are
playing in the revitalization of cities."
|The new 100-seat Cohen-Davison Family Theatre fits small chamber ensembles perfectly. It also serves well as the Jazz Orchestra's rehearsal space.||
To that end, Peabody is celebrating its Grand Reopening
with the Music for the World Festival from April 17 to 25.
It will feature more than a week's worth of concerts by
Peabody's major ensembles, big-name performers, and rising
young talent. A symposium of political and business leaders
from cities throughout the East Coast will focus on how
arts institutions invigorate urban areas.
Says Sirota, "We are inviting the community in and announcing both to the immediate surroundings, as well as to the world, that we are very engaged with setting the agenda for the future of the arts in this country."
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