WATERVILLE — The $95 million Gordon Center for Creative and Performing Arts is poised to open soon at Colby College, representing the capstone to hundreds of millions of dollars in investments by the college in the arts on campus and in downtown Waterville.

Colby officials are billing the center as the most advanced and innovative academic arts facility in the region. It is scheduled to be completed in a few weeks, with an official opening in late October, although students and staff members are to begin using it next week.

“It is the largest academic project we have ever undertaken,” Colby President David A. Greene said Wednesday.

Designed by William Rawn Associates, Architects Inc. of Boston, the 72,000-square-foot center includes a state-of-the-art, 325-seat performance hall; multipurpose performance areas for theater, music and dance; studios; classrooms; faculty offices; a small cinema; and an arts incubator to facilitate and nurture emerging art forms.

“What we did was create highly flexible spaces throughout this building for all different types of arts disciplines,” Greene said.

During a tour of the building Wednesday with Brian Clark, Colby’s vice president of planning and strategy, Kemp Anderson, the college’s senior project manager, and Colby spokesman George Sopko, Greene said the outside and inside walls of glass are unusual in performing arts centers. They were included in the design as a way to present a welcoming and creative space for the college and the community, and not just for those involved in the arts.


The front of the building, which faces Mayflower Hill Drive, is high-performance glass with white ash wood shutters and opens into a spacious lobby that can be used as performance space, complete with theater lighting. A balcony off a dance studio on the second floor affords audiences a view of the lobby below.

“This is a lobby which should be buzzing with people, activity and art-making,” Greene said.

The center represents one of the final efforts in a yearslong goal to create and coordinate arts venues on campus and in the downtown area. When Greene came to Waterville in 2014, he hosted meetings with city leaders, arts advocates, businesspeople and others to identify what the city needed to thrive and prosper. They told him the downtown needed more people living and working there, and a top priority was to build and expand on the city’s arts and cultural offerings.

The outcome has proven transformational. Opening in recent years were the $25 million Bill and Joan Alfond Main Street Commons, which houses some 200 students and faculty members; $6 million Greene Block + Studios; $18 million Paul J. Schupf Art Center, possible with fundraising by Colby and the arts organization Waterville Creates; and the $26 million Lockwood Hotel, which includes the Front & Main restaurant.

The Colby College Museum of Art on campus is the largest museum in Maine. Colby is also home to the Lunder Institute for American Art and the Lyons Arts Lab, and the college owns two historic islands off the Maine Coast — Benner Island and Allen Island — where the college works to preserve the Andrew Wyeth family legacy.

“If you put all of these things together, suddenly Waterville and central Maine becomes one of the greatest regional arts centers in the country,” Greene said, “and that’s really exciting to me.”


Workers put finishing touches on a performance studio Wednesday at the Gordon Center for Creative and Performing Arts at Colby College in Waterville. Michael G. Seamans/Morning Sentinel

All told, Colby has invested more than $400 million in the arts in Waterville over the past eight to 10 years. In addition to that, about $200 million has been invested in the downtown area, with Colby contributing about half of that amount.

The Gordon Center and other arts facilities are expected to help drive economic development by bringing people to Waterville to enjoy cultural offerings, according to Greene.

Other, smaller performance spaces on campus, such as Given and Bixler auditoriums, Strider Theater and Lorimer Chapel, will continue to host smaller events, and Bixler is being renovated, Greene said. The Colby Symphony Orchestra will move from Lorimer to the Gordon Center, he said.

“We’ll have ways for the community to use this space, and we’ll be working with Waterville Creates on master schedules,” he said of the center.

Colby College President David A. Greene stands on the stage Wednesday in the main performance hall at the Gordon Center for Creative and Performing Arts at Colby College in Waterville. Michael G. Seamans/Morning Sentinel

The performance hall at the Gordon Center features a large white ash stage floor with moveable wings and an orchestra pit that can be raised to expand the stage. The seats also are white ash with dark blue upholstery, made by Hussey Seating Co. of North Berwick. The hall has glass walls to the rear, overlooking Foss Woodman Hall, a residence and dining facility.

A large space off the left of the lobby, with 32-foot-high ceilings, was designed to be used for various types of performances and seats 125 people. Like the other performance spaces at the building, it has a booth for a technical crew controlling lighting and sound. Two walls of the room are glass, but have shades that can be opaque or fully block light. And like the other spaces, it has a sophisticated acoustic system that, with the flip of a switch, can project music and other sound for the type of performance at hand.


Large glass “barn doors” that slide open are features in several performance spaces, including the lobby and main performance hall, creating transparency throughout. Twenty-eight pianos have been moved into the center, including six new pianos, one of which is a Steinway grand, according to Greene. To the right of the lobby is a large performance space with 260 theater lights. It is geared toward theater, but can be used for other disciplines.

The center was alive with activity Wednesday as employees from Portland-based Consigli Construction Co. Inc. and its subcontractors worked throughout the building.

A small cinema awaits some finishing touches Wednesday at the Gordon Center for Creative and Performing Arts at Colby College in Waterville. Michael G. Seamans/Morning Sentinel

Greene spoke fondly of Michael L. Gordon, a 1966 Colby graduate and trustee for whom the center is named. Gordon, who gave the lead gift to the center, is a trustee of the Boston Symphony Orchestra and co-founder of the New York-based investment firm Angelo Gordon.

“This project is part of something that has had great meaning for him his entire life,” Greene said. “I love that this is a project that he wanted to support.”

Other features of the massive center include film editing suites, recording studios, an outdoor performance space, costume and scene shops, dressing rooms, a green room, a studio production room and music practice rooms.

“I think there’s nothing like this in New England,” said Clark, the vice president of planning and strategy.

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