How the Arts Are Reinventing, Not Replacing, Existing Centers

Many of the country's arts centers that were built during the '60s and '70s building boom are in less than desirable condition. Due to budget constraints and the issue of displacing audiences, leaders and planners are deciding on renovation instead of complete replacement. Notable arts venues such as the Lincoln and Kennedy Centers have reemerged as modern adaptations for the evolving needs of audiences, while also delicately retaining their identities.

Communities cherish facilities that they have supported for decades, but realize that updates in technology, comfort and access are needed to provide the best performances. Theater Planning Expert, Joshua Dachs of Fisher Dachs Associates, notes the delicacy of reinventing the performing arts venue: "I always ask, what are we designing and why? What are we trying to accomplish? Organizations understand the need to renovate, but keeping their identity and mission in focus is paramount as they move forward."

These challenges are facing arts facilities of all types, from large centers to theaters. One such project Dachs worked with is The Old Globe Theater, the well-regarded theater complex in San Diego, where he worked closely with the Executive Director, Lou Spisto. Spisto pioneered a $75 million-dollar fundraising campaign to update The Old Globe's campus with multiple goals.

The Globe needed to replace one of their theaters, add considerable new space to accommodate its growing education programs, and create entirely new public spaces, while also maintaining the look of the 1935 Tudor style complex. The challenge was pleasing the city's leaders and committees, the State's historic commission, donors, staff and artists using the facilities, and ultimately the audience and community. Lou Spisto and Josh Dachs considered how every single space would overcome this challenge.

Lou Spisto, currently a consultant and producer, commented: "We had many stakeholders and we managed to please them all. The plan that we developed with Josh made a huge difference; we stayed true to our vision as we navigated the design, budget and approval process. Our clarity was key to achieving the financial and civic support for facilities that will be home to some really great theatre and community programs for generations to come."

Arts organizations nationwide are updating facilities but, more importantly, reexamining their mission. This may not be the great civic building boom of the '60s, but it is a great opportunity for communities to rededicate themselves to their arts spaces of all sizes as they enter a great new era.