Momentum Increases As First Phase of Building the Gordon Center for Creative and Performing Arts Continues

Members of the Colby community share their visions for the Gordon Center, its progress, and the enriching benefits it will bring to the Colby experience.

Central to Colby’s goal of growing a robust arts ecosystem with investments on and off campus, the new Gordon Center for Creative and Performing Arts is poised to be an on-campus hub of collaboration and innovation. 

The new building is part of Colby’s larger arts initiative that includes the Colby College Museum of Art, Lunder Institute for American Art, and downtown’s Paul J. Schupf Art Center and arts collaborative. Set to open on campus in fall 2023, it will offer multidisciplinary spaces to create new forms of creative expression and will serve to deepen the connections among the College, Waterville, and surrounding central Maine communities. 

Several major gifts in support of the project have already paved the way for substantial progress, but more fundraising is needed as the College moves to break ground this year. Members of the campus community eagerly await the opening of the state-of-the art building and, with it, the endless opportunities the new space will cultivate for the arts. 

Students and faculty share their passion for the arts at Colby.

New Home for Collaborative, Creative Expression
As told by Jim Thurston, associate professor of theater and dance

The Gordon Center will be the new home for Colby’s Departments of Theater and Dance, Music, and the Cinema Studies Program. The Departments of Theater and Dance and Music are currently reimagining their curriculum based on the increased potential for interdisciplinary work.  

Amazing student-driven work is always happening right here on campus. Having the best resources and places to support creation in every way is really exciting. A number of spaces in the Gordon Center, including an arts incubator that will serve as a brainstorming lab and a studio production room that will allow for the creation of film and multimedia work, will foster unmatched teaching and learning experiences that don’t currently exist on campus. 

A robust, creative, and interdisciplinary learning environment will exist for students to use their voices to probe and celebrate our time; to look into humanity from their point of view, through their own magnifying glass. 

The 714-acre campus doesn’t have an immense geographical footprint, however the Department of Music is currently on the north end of campus while the Department of Theater and Dance is located on the south, with cinema studies interspersed between them. When we have all departments under one roof and everyone is meeting around the table on a regular basis to schedule programming for the building, a range of exciting projects will naturally form.

Versatile Venue to Learn, Create, and Perform
As told by Karl Lackner ’22, government and music double major, East Asian studies minor

Having observed the setbacks the performing arts have suffered during the pandemic, I can see how clearly beneficial collaboration between students and faculty is when participating in any kind of creative expression. While we have tried to make do this past semester with virtual concerts and online lessons, it really hasn’t been the same without the in-person communication and group playing that we had before. Partnering with others is really important in the performative arts and in the development of individuals’ creative abilities. 

The Gordon Center will be a distinct and enriching resource for Colby students to pursue an education in the arts or just satisfy an artistic hobby. The creation of the center shows that Colby not only values students who are artistically inclined, but  will invest resources to help push and promote their endeavors.


Gordon Center for Creative and Performing Arts rendering fly-through created by William Rawn Associates, Architects, Inc.

If You Build it, They Will Come
As told by professional actor Will Hochman ’14

The first time I ever acted was during my junior year at Colby. I was an economics major. I played on the squash team. I had basically zero experience as an actor. But Colby is an encouraging place where very little feels out of bounds. I was able to just walk into the theater building and begin.

Pursuing a liberal arts education is, I think, like getting the opportunity to paint with different colors. You can investigate yourself and explore life and academics with people who might have vastly different views, backgrounds, or experiences. With a facility like the Gordon Center—a gorgeous, modern home for actors, musicians, writers, directors, dancers, dreamers, and even people like me who had  never really done any of those things before, but maybe felt the call—there is real opportunity for growth and greatness. 

The center itself is a beautiful act of community. A state-of-the-art theater in the middle of  Maine with trees and sky and basically limitless possibility. A place where diverse approaches might live together, and where students, faculty, and visiting professionals might do incredible things.  After all, if an econ major can walk into old-school Runnals and wind up on Broadway, then who knows what might happen when a new generation of Colby students passes through the large glass doors of the Gordon Center, finding every tool they could possibly need, and asks: “What if?”

Bringing Vision to Reality
As told by Vice President for College Advancement Jane Phillips ’01

Great colleges have great architecture. With the addition of the Gordon Center designed by William Rawn and Associates, Colby will be no exception. Bill Rawn is a leading architect in the country for performing arts centers, as well campus and civic spaces. He is known for his distinctive design attributes that create transparency through the use of light, wood, and glass. He has designed notable venues including Seiji Ozawa Hall and Linde Center for Music and Learning at Tanglewood in Lenox, Mass. and the Rubenstein Arts Center at Duke University in Durham, N.C. Rawn’s innovative architecture will undoubtedly draw visitors to campus.

Groundbreaking for the Gordon Center will take place in 2021 for a fall 2023 opening. Enabling projects to make way for the Gordon Center where the Mary Low parking lot is currently sited are underway. In October 2020 the College began a major road project, landscaping, and construction of a multi-tiered parking lot.

Aerial view of the Gordon Center for Creative and Performing Arts site in fall 2020.

The College couldn’t be more grateful to Trustee Michael Gordon ’66 for his visionary lead gift to bring this long-awaited project to fruition and how he and the over a dozen additional donors have inspired the Colby community to support this project so far.  

Fundraising efforts for the 74,000-square-foot center are ongoing. Campus is already buzzing with anticipation for this new space and gifts of all sizes will help bring this vision to life. I’m already envisioning meeting colleagues in the forum, attending a concert or talk from a renowned speaker in the performance hall, and viewing student art throughout the building. I can’t wait.  

If you’re interested in learning more about the Gordon Center or in supporting the project, contact Advancement Officers Carol Anne Beach ’88 or Nikki Jacobson ’12.

Renderings of several exterior angles and interior venues of the Gordon Center for Creative and Performing Arts created by William Rawn Associates, Architects, Inc.

Serving as the primary performance venue on campus, the performance hall will support everything from solo musicians to a full 80-seat orchestra, from dance and theater productions to film screenings, lectures, and more. Three flexible studios are connected by the building’s forum. An arts incubator, equipped with computer workstations, drafting tables, and group work space and balcony space overlooking the forum, will provide much needed flexible-use lab, classroom, and performance space. A recording studio, film-screening studio, multiple practice spaces for both individuals and groups, dressing rooms, scene shop, and classrooms are intentionally designed to accommodate multiple types of teaching, studying, and creating with the purpose of promoting cross-disciplinary connections and collaborations.