Hockaday Moves Toward New Fine Arts Center

Last summer, boxes stacked along the walls of the portables filled with lab equipment were moved to Hockaday’s new science building, home to the Lyda Hill STEAM Institute. But the portables will soon house a new tenant: the Fine Arts department.

Hockaday alumna Nancy Nasher and David Haemisegger contributed $6 million toward a new arts building — Phase II of the Centennial Center. So the Fine Arts department will start the packing and moving process into the Nucleus — as the portable village was named — and be fully installed in their temporary housing by the beginning of March.

The Nasher-Haemisegger Family Center for the Arts will be home to both the visual and performing arts at Hockaday and will house an art gallery with moveable walls in order to customize exhibitions, an outdoor amphitheater, a new Black Box theater, and new orchestra and choir spaces.

According to Hockaday chief financial officer JT Coats, the new auditorium will be unrecognizable.

“It’s going to be a lovely theater, and you are not going to even know that it has the bones of Hoblitzelle underneath it,” Coats said.

Although the stage will be bigger, the seating will not be compromised, as the interior will extend to enclose the area where the columns in front of Hoblitzelle stand today. When completed, the new auditorium will house 650 seats and a 100 to 120-seat balcony. The seating has been designed to create the best possible line of sight for the whole audience, with wider spaces between rows and wider chairs. There is also the option of having side seating around the perimeter with removable chairs, and without them the sides can serve as ramps leading on and off the stage.

The new space will be a theater that will serve as an auditorium. To achieve this, it will have a full stage, wing spaces to the sides, and a full fly, which will be used to raise sets in and out. The control rooms will move downstairs, student-safe catwalks will hover over the audience, and the set shop will have better access to the stage.

In order to begin constructing these spaces, the tenants of the Fine Arts building will need to move to the portables. Along with the sacrifice of classrooms for portables, the auditorium will close its curtains for the last time on Feb. 9.

Most of this year’s events will be held in Hoblitzelle Auditorium, but some productions and ceremonies will need to be relocated or rescheduled. Although Coats acknowledges that beginning the construction process in the middle of the year will be difficult, she realizes it is essential for the completion of the project by June 2016.

“We have been in the [design] process for years, actually, and we are very blessed that the school acknowledges that the people who use the facilities know best about what should go in them, along with, of course, the professional architects,” said Beth Wortley, Hockaday performing arts chair and dance instructor.

Hockaday junior Mercer Malakoff, a drama extension student, sees how the remodel, especially the revamping of the Black Box theater, will aid the drama curriculum and entice more people to join.

“The Black Box being expanded will help a lot with drama and the people in it,” she said.

Wortley also feels that the new facilities will bring new opportunities.

“We can involve more students, in more ways,” Wortley said. “The Black Box itself is going to allow us to do some new and innovative productions that we haven’t ever been able to do, and with a theater space that has so many more possibilities.”

To meet the deadline, the department has to be fully packed and moved out of the building by Feb. 17. Classes are slated to begin in the Nasher-Haemisegger Family Center for the Arts in fall 2016.

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