Renderings show the Gordon Center for Creative and Performing Arts, which is scheduled to open in the fall of 2023 on the Mayflower Hill campus at Colby College in Waterville. Rendering by William Rawn Associates, Architects, Inc.

WATERVILLE — Colby College has received a $3.35 million gift to go toward the $80 million Gordon Center for Creative and Performing Arts, expected to open in the fall of 2023 on the Mayflower Hill campus.

In announcing the donation, Colby officials said Tuesday the gift is from donors who want to remain anonymous for now, but the forum of the center will be named in their honor.

The forum, to be located in the heart of the building, “will be a dynamic, flexible space designed to connect the community through a range of uses, from informal gatherings to student performances and exhibitions,” according to a statement released to the news media.

“I am grateful to this Colby family for their incredible generosity,” Colby President David A. Greene said of the donors. “They share our belief in the power of innovation and creativity in developing the critical thinking and problem-solving skills that are at the core of a Colby education.

“Their ongoing support and thoughtful approach toward programs and projects that are deeply personal have made an immediate and lasting impact on the college.”

The Gordon Center, to be built where the Mary Low parking lot was located at the southern gateway to campus, represents the largest academic building project in Colby’s history, according to college officials. It will feature multipurpose spaces, including a signature performance hall, flexible studios for performance, teaching, and exploration, classrooms and music practice rooms, recording and video editing suites and an arts incubator.

Designed for innovative teaching, performing, working and creating, the center will foster creativity and collaboration among students and faculty across the discipline and will contribute to a growing robust arts ecosystem in central Maine, college officials said.

The Gordon Center is named for Colby trustee and alumnus Michael Gordon, who has donated to the center. Work on the project began in October 2020 with a major road project, landscaping and construction of a multitiered parking lot. A groundbreaking for the center is expected this summer, with an opening anticipated two years later.

The $3.35 million gift for the center builds on the lead gift by Gordon, a 1966 alumnus, and a $5 million commitment from trustee Marieke Rothschild and Jeff Rothschild.

Construction workers deal with wintry conditions Tuesday at the site of the Gordon Center for Creative and Performing Arts, under construction at Colby College in Waterville. Rich Abrahamson/Morning Sentinel Buy this Photo

The donors of the latest gift are quoted in Colby’s announcement as saying their “commitment to academic support and the creative and performing arts more broadly at Colby stems from a very simple idea: The more students and faculty are exposed to different ways of thinking, divergent communities and alternate styles of teaching and learning, the richer the community becomes.”

Teresa McKinney, Colby’s Diamond Family Director of the Arts, said the new center will bring together students, faculty, community members and creators from all disciplines.

“The forum will be its centerpiece, the spirit of the building as an incubator for emerging art forms that will shape how we inspire creative expression, advance problem solving and build a dynamic cultural understanding of the world,” McKinney said.

Colby has existing performing arts venues throughout campus, including Strider Theater, Lorimer Chapel, Bixler Auditorium and Given Auditorium. The idea of building a new performing arts center is to put all venues at one location that is convenient and accessible, college officials said last year.

The city’s Planning Board voted 6-0 on Sept. 14, 2020, to approve plans for the 74,000-square-foot, three-level Gordon Center.

In addition to the future performing arts center, Colby is now building a $6.5 million arts collaborative across Main Street downtown from the college’s $26 million Lockwood Hotel, which this year is housing about 100 students during the coronavirus pandemic.

Colby also plans to start work this year on the $18 million to $20 million Paul J. Schupf Art Center at 93 Main St. in downtown Waterville, bringing the total investment in the arts over the next couple of years to more than $100 million on campus and at downtown locations.

Colby last year completed the $200 million, 350,000-square-foot Harold Alfond Athletic Center on Campus Drive, and received a certificate of occupancy in July.

Colby officials said the Gordon Center will be a key part of Colby’s ongoing efforts to make the arts a more central component of life in Waterville, with the goal of helping to deepen connections with the college, Waterville and surrounding communities, and supporting a shared commitment to the arts and boosting the region’s creative economy.

The Gordon Center, in addition to the existing Colby College Museum of Art and the Lunder Institute for American Art, will provide Colby students, faculty and the community with the best-in-class facilities and resources necessary to support a distinctive performing and creative arts program within the liberal arts, according to college officials.

They say the Arts Collaborative and the Paul J. Schupf Art Center will “further amplify the arts in the community, making Colby and Waterville a destination for arts and culture. The facilities will attract intellectually creative students and faculty, strengthen partnerships with artists and art organizations, and support broader regional access to world-class performances.”

Construction equipment is shown Tuesday at the site of the Gordon Center for Creative and Performing Arts, under construction at Colby College in Waterville. Rich Abrahamson/Morning Sentinel) Buy this Photo

The Gordon Center was designed by William Rawn Associates, Architects Inc. of Boston, and will provide a new home for the college’s departments of theater and dance and music and the Cinema Studies Program, according to Colby officials.

“Studios and makerspaces, combined with performance venues that have the capacity to inspire multiple types of performance and creation, will define the new building and provide critical space for academic and cocurricular activities and programs, teaching, rehearsal, and performance,” Colby officials wrote in their announcement.

“Colby’s first dedicated arts incubator and film screening and recording studios will support creative expression that incorporate multimedia and interactive technologies that are central to a 21st-century arts program.”

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