Inside the new Mattin Center, the first notes have been played, steps danced and still lifes painted. And soon the first play will be performed at its Richard and Rae Swirnow Theater. While still a work in progress, the new student arts center is certainly open for business.
Eric Beatty, director of the Homewood Arts Program, says it brings a big smile to his face to hear a trumpet being played in one of the practice rooms, or to watch a group of aspiring actors rehearse a scene in the polished halls. Recently, Beatty was equally delighted to hear familiar guitar licks from Tommy! resound off the walls--the Barnstormers are rehearsing for their upcoming production of The Who's rock opera.
"People are just thrilled," Beatty says. "Things are starting to cook here."
Beatty says the students with whom he's spoken "love" the new amenities, whether they be the well-lit art studios, springy dance floors or spacious rehearsal rooms.
"And the student groups are very happy to have a place they can call home, and not having to worry about scheduling a different room every week," Beatty says.
For seniors Cassidy Briggs and Ben Blake, the scheduling conflicts certainly had been a major nuisance. But now they have "space," and lots of it.
"That's probably the hugest thing why this center is such a godsend," Blake says.
Briggs, who along with Blake is taking an acting class with visiting professor John Astin, says she hopes this new center will heighten students' awareness of and appreciation for the arts.
"We have both been doing theater here for four years. And, until now, we have never had a formal outlet where we can get some training," Briggs says. "I think the center is great for academic life here, for student life here."
Sophomore Ruthie Aslan, who is taking an art class this semester, couldn't agree with Briggs more.
"I think this place is pretty important," Aslan says. "It builds my confidence in the school being committed to making the arts more accessible to students here."
Aslan also likes the center's aesthetic appeal.
"It is a really nice building. And the art studio looks like an art studio," Aslan says. "There's lots of light in there," she says, referring to the natural light that pours in through the windows. "And light is key."
The Swirnow Theater's lights will be dimmed and the curtain drawn at 8 p.m. on Thursday, April 26, when a three-night run of Seven Guitars, a play by August Wilson, begins at the Mattin Center. The inaugural performance is being put on by Hopkins' own Dunbar, Baldwin, Hughes Theater.
Beatty says the theater is in the last legs of the construction process, and the cyber cafe, which is in the same wing of the building, is due to open on April 23. He predicts that when the dust finally settles, and the weather warms up, the Mattin Center will crackle with activity.
"That is when this place will really begin to draw people," Beatty says.