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New School to Build Performing Arts Hub Featuring a 'Glass Box' Theater

By Heather Holland | February 25, 2015 7:37am
 The New School is revamping Arnhold Hall with a "glass box" theater and a massive performance space.
The New School is revamping Arnhold Hall with a "glass box" theater and a massive performance space.
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The New School

UNION SQUARE — The New School is creating a “performing arts hub” on 13th Street that will include a glass-encased theater allowing people on the street to peek at shows as they walk by.

The "glass box" theater is part of the first phase of an extensive renovation to The New School's Arnhold Hall building at 55 W. 13th St., set to be complete by the time school starts next fall.

In addition to the new theater, the project will also include renovated classrooms and practice spaces, followed by a massive orchestra-sized performance space on the ninth floor that will take longer to build, according to Richard Kessler, executive dean for performing arts at The New School.

Arnhold Hall is already home to The New School for Jazz and the renovations, which began last month, will enable The New School's Mannes College of Music to move from the Upper West Side to share the space as well. The New School for Drama will also share parts of the building, Kessler said.

“Everyone at The New School is revved up about the convergence of Mannes moving to Arnhold Hall, the current renovation and exciting future plans for the building, and the coming together of the three performing arts schools into one brand new division: The College of The Performing Arts,” Kessler said in an email.

“All of this will allow us to expand opportunities in world class performing arts education and performances, while partnering with the rest of The New School to engage the much broader community [more] than ever before.”

The project will gut-renovate the first four floors of the building to make way for art classrooms, practice rooms and performance spaces designed for music and drama students. The rooms will all be soundproofed and equipped with the latest music technology, Kessler said. 

The rooms will be flexible so that they can easily be transformed from a classroom to a performance space, Kessler said.

The classrooms will be used by college students and younger kids from Mannes Prep, a music school run by The New School for children ages 4 to 18, Kessler said.

“The performing arts at The New School are growing, including Mannes,” Kessler said. “New degree programs are being developed, as well as new programs, courses and community-based partnerships.”

Kessler declined to give the cost of the renovation project.

The second phase will include the construction of an orchestra-sized performance space on the building's top floor, which will involve breaking through the roof and extending it, Kessler said.

The new hall is especially crucial as the college's Tishman Auditorium, which opened last year at the University Center at Fifth Avenue and 14th Street, has become crowded, Kessler said.

"We do know there's a big need for such a hall at Arnhold, particularly as Tishman Auditorium has rapidly become sought after for university presentations and rentals," he said.

An opening date for the performance hall has not been set.