The Oak Leaf
Norfolk Collegiate heralds new Center for the ArtsTuesday, December 13, 2011 By Mark Jamias
Dec. 16 will mark an “earth-shattering” event in the 63 year history of Norfolk Collegiate School. Construction for the long awaited Center for the Arts will officially start after a school-wide groundbreaking celebration. Parents, teachers, administrators, trustees, special guests and students who have played a tremendous role in the inception of the Center will watch their plans materialize. Likewise, younger students will witness the beginnings of their roles in the Center’s future. Middle and Upper School students took part in a demolition ceremony for the Stone House and the nearby medical offices on Dec. 5. “The Center for the Arts is a renewal of the commitment to provide the best education for our students,” said Norfolk Collegiate Director of Development Kay Stine. “It reinforces the value of the arts in our curriculum and our lives.” Funding for the Center started more than a decade ago with the Rings of Life Campaign. In 1997, this three-phase capital campaign sought to raise money to improve the school’s infrastructure. “The three goals were to renovate the lower school, build a new middle school building and finally build the Center for the Arts,” explained Norfolk Collegiate Headmaster Scott Kennedy. The school worked with the architecture firm Shriver and Holland Associates to incorporate ideas from the faculty and school trustees into a blueprint, and the NCS Board of Trustees approved the Center’s plans in September 2011. The biggest asset the Center will provide the school will be a theater built to accommodate and entertain the masses. Traveling performers and guest artists will be able to take advantage of the performance space during their visits in Hampton Roads. “We will have lots of opportunities for performances,” said Mrs. LeMay of the 425-seat theater. The “cornerstone” of the building, according to Mr. Kennedy, will feature student productions in a “professional quality. ” In turn, visiting actors can mentor budding thespians. “Students can meet with actors and conduct workshops,” said Mrs. Francis, middle school chorus teacher. The new Center will introduce opportunities for students to express their artistic abilities. “The kids will be able to work in theater production aspects: stage production, lighting, prop design,” said Mrs. Francis. Student artwork will be displayed in special galleries along the lengths of the building. Seminar rooms, office space and a chorus room are also in the current blueprints. The Center will also house current communication arts programs like computer-aided design, graphic design, filmmaking and journalism. “In the future I hope it will be like a school within a school,” said Mrs. Francis. Last, the Center will be a testament to the school’s commitment to the community as much as its commitment to the arts. Administrators hope that the Center will host speakers, tour groups and exhibits to benefit the local community. “We emphasize the need for our students to give back to the community,” said Mr. Kennedy. “We also believe that the Center should do so, as well.” Event groups such as Festevents will have the ability to use the Center for activities and functions. Many teachers see potential school growth as a direct result of the Center’s construction. “[The arts center] can become our niche in the private school market,” said Mr. Hurst. “We can be the home for people who say, ‘I want to learn how to sing.’” Mr. Hurst also expressed interest in starting new classes, especially those in the fine arts field. “If there is an interest, we should do it,” he said. According to Mr. Gillespie, the school’s facility manager, student life will not change drastically during the construction period. Students will not be in the hard-hat area during the day, and most major parts of construction will take place outside of school hours. The only major change in daily life for students will be in parking. “Basically, student parking will return to how it was before the acquisition of the doctor’s office,” said Mr. Gillespie, noting that students did not park at the doctor’s office two years ago. In order to alleviate future parking woes, “The school hopes that the city will give us parking rights on both sides of Suburban Parkway,” he said. Construction also will change existing bus departures from the Stone House. “Busses will pick up students from the bell tower once construction begins,” said Mr. Gillespie. “The students of Norfolk Collegiate deserve a quality facility that equals the quality of their talent,” said Mr. Kennedy. “We expect construction to last for 425 days.” If all goes according to schedule, the center will be completed by Spring 2013.