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DAG Design Specialty: Performing Arts Centers

As the world of performing arts continues to evolve, so does the inclusion of this element in K-12 schools across the country. Arts education in the K-12 setting brings not only entertainment to the school, but a thriving arts program also draws the curtain to a stage of transformative benefits for participating students and the local community. An arts education nurtures creativity, curiosity, and motivation. It allows for deep engagement with learning and shapes the way students understand themselves and the world around them (National Association for Music Education, 2016).

It could be said that the cornerstone to an arts program’s success is the facility available to those who learn within it. That is why school districts are opting into local half-cent sales taxes, fundraisers, and marketing initiatives to bring the life-changing amenity of a Performing Arts Center to their students. DAG Architects has been lucky enough to work with a number of both higher education and K-12 schools on the addition of a fine arts facility to their campus. DAG Architects has earned expertise in the design of Performing Arts Centers by developing a collaborative process of experience and research-based design that delivers improved outcomes. We look to inform every design process with a deep understanding of the purpose and function of a building and with years of educational design experience behind us, we know the importance of fully incorporating a program’s curriculum to maximize the usability of the facility. In the following, you will see examples of how DAG met client needs, budgets, and dreams in the design fruitions of some of our arts facility work.

Gretchen Nelson Scott Fine Arts Center

At Mosley High School

Coined “The gem of Lynn Haven,” by former Principal Sandy Harrison, the Gretchen Nelson Scott Fine Arts Center at Mosley High School was given life by a generous donation from a local family’s foundation. One of the main goals of the project was to create a new landmark on the school’s campus, a structure that will embody the ties between the school and its neighboring community, and that will honor the legacy of the families that donated the funds.

This high school finally having a performance facility of their own will provide a much-needed community facility to host lectures, community theater productions, and other civic programs. The drama department will be able to build sets, practice, and perform in a state-of-the-art facility on their own campus, and the facility will also be more convenient for choir and band concerts and other events.

Like sports, the arts connect schools to their communities. We wanted to create a civic and street presence for this new performance venue while integrating it onto the existing campus. The arrival sequence we create will help set the stage for each event, leading up to the production itself, the recital, the play, or the special ceremony. We also wanted to ensure that the facility can later be expanded, if desired, to provide additional fine arts facilities such as dance and rehearsal rooms, dressing rooms, stage set shops, and classrooms.

A central plaza with polished concrete floors and high ceilings leads gracefully into the building, and the transparent glass façade welcomes visitors and students alike. This building will actually become the welcoming beacon to the aging high school behind it, and will serve as a visible gateway to connect the school to the larger community it is part of.

Fact: Original Estimated Building Cost: $6,380,074.00

Total Final Building Costs: $5,786,608.00

“In an educational situation, if you’re not teaching students in state-of-the-art equipment and technology, they’re not very marketable.”

Joan Stadsklev, Performing Arts Director of Chipola College

Prominently located at the entrance to the college, the Center for the Arts has become the new “front door” of Chipola College’s campus. With about 10,000 annual visitors for theater productions, artist series events, and performances for 6,000 area school children, the facility is fulfilling the dreams and cultural needs of its students, community residents, visitors, and community organizations.

The Center includes a 655-seat performance theater with a fly loft and orchestra pit, a 150-seat experimental “black box” theater for intimate works, cutting-edge programs, and recitals, an art gallery, a spacious green room, four dressing rooms to handle between 40 and 60 performers, a dance studio, costume shop, and a two-story set design workshop. The lobby functions as a central gathering space for the performance venues, as well as a place for social and fundraising purposes.

The multi-purpose proscenium theater is equipped with state-of-the-art systems for sound, rigging, and lighting to handle professional shows of all types. The differing acoustical requirements for performance spaces, rehearsal spaces, and instructional spaces were a critical factor in the design, especially with limited room volume and a limited budget. Although it hosts visiting stars and touring companies, the primary focus of the Center remains its students. Constance Smith, Director of Technical Theater, says, “We really give them something they can work with in the real world and use the rest of their lives.”

Fact: Original Estimated Construction Cost: $16,000,000.00

Total Final Building Costs: $14,122,000

One of our favorite projects in educational design, Performing and Fine Arts Centers is a feat that requires thoughtfulness and passion that not every other type of project demands. Our team has a great ability to understand what key stakeholders and end-users would like to get out of their facility and we work to surpass the expectations set forth. Our ability to maintain, or finish below, a budget is a badge that we wear with pride because we understand how hard schools work for the funds that they have to spend. There are numerous areas of architecture in which we consider ourselves experts and the design of educational arts facilities like the two featured here is certainly one.

For more information about how DAG Architects designs Performing Arts Centers and other educational facilities,


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