By Susie Allen, AB’09
Photo by Tom Rossiter

A preview period will begin on Monday, March 26 for the Reva and David Logan Center for the Arts at the University of Chicago, giving the University community and the public a first look at a facility that represents a milestone for the arts in Chicago.

The preview period will continue for six months as construction is completed on the innovative building, designed by renowned architects Tod Williams and Billie Tsien. Many portions of the facility are ready now, and others will be finished in the coming months. Arts programming already is beginning, with select classes, and more than 40 performances, exhibitions, and conferences scheduled for the preview period.

Artists and scholars from many disciplines will make use of the Logan Center, providing opportunities for students, faculty, staff, visiting artists, and the public to experience the arts during the preview period. The Logan Center will host a campus open house at 3 p.m. on Friday, March 30. A grand opening celebration for the Logan Center will take place from Oct. 11 to 13.

Creating a hub for vibrant arts scene

“The Reva and David Logan Center for the Arts will enrich and inspire arts education, scholarship, and creative practice at the University of Chicago,” said President Robert J. Zimmer. “We are now seeing the fruits of the vision of the late David Logan, whose commitment to the arts and culture made an historic impact on the University. The Logan family’s legacy is manifest in this new facility, and in the creativity and collaborations that will unfold there.”

The Logan Center is designed to serve as a hub for the vibrant arts scene at UChicago. Williams and Tsien designed the 11-story, 184,000-square-foot building as an elegant “mixing bowl for the arts,” in which artists and scholars of many disciplines will work and perform, creating new possibilities for spontaneous collaboration. The building houses classrooms, studios, rehearsal rooms, and exhibition and performance spaces. These innovative facilities will be home to academic and extracurricular programs in cinema and media studies, creative writing, music, theater and performance studies, and the visual arts. With spaces and programming attuned to the needs of the University and visitors alike, the Logan Center provides a vital new gathering space for Chicago’s arts community.

“We’re very excited to offer this first look at the Logan Center, and to begin to discover all of the ways our faculty, students, visiting artists, and neighbors will make the building their own,” said Bill Michel, Executive Director of the Reva and David Logan Center for the Arts. “After a decade of planning, it is exciting to see the ideas of so many people result in an incredible new arts center that will catalyze creativity and inquiry in new ways.”

During the preview period, some courses in art history, creative writing, music, theatre and performance studies, and the visual arts will be held in the Logan Center. Upcoming public events include the March 30 campus open house; the opening of “Catherine Sullivan and Company’s Inaugurals,” a gallery exhibition by multimedia artist and Department of Visual Arts faculty member Catherine Sullivan, also on March 30; an ArtSpeaks lecture by Waltz with Bashir director Ari Folman on April 23; a theater and performance studies/University Theater performance of playwright Mickle Maher’s adaptation of An Actor Prepares beginning April 25; and a major conference on comics sponsored by the Richard and Mary L. Gray Center for Arts and Inquiry from May 18 to 20.

Located at 915 E. 60th St. on the Midway Plaisance, the Logan Center will serve as a bridge between UChicago’s campus and the cultural offerings of the South Side and greater Chicago. The center will work collaboratively with the University’s new Arts and Public Life Initiative to build partnerships with civic and cultural institutions citywide. In addition, the Logan Center plans to offer a variety of public programs aimed at visitors of all ages, such as arts education programming for students in nearby schools, and a monthly “Saturday Afternoon Arts” program for adults and families in the community. The Logan Center’s community open house will be held on April 21.

“I am grateful that the Logan family is supporting a development of such magnitude in Woodlawn,” says 20th Ward Alderman Willie B. Cochran. “In my personal engagements with David, he emphasized the importance of ensuring the Logan Center’s inclusiveness with respect to the surrounding communities, especially Woodlawn and Washington Park.

“David clearly saw the Center as a vehicle to contribute to community transformation and improvement of the quality of life for all community members,” adds Cochran. “I am inspired by his vision and his family’s commitment to ensuring that the Logan Center serves, indeed, as a pathway to a richer life experience for all.”

“A place where arts overlap”

In 2007, David and Reva Logan, and their children and grandchildren, gave $35 million to the University in support of the new arts center. David Logan, AB’39, JD’41, passed away in 2011, leaving an enduring legacy of support for the arts and the University. “My mom and dad always believed the arts tell us who we are. They inspire us, and they make us better people,” said the Logans’ eldest son, Dan, during the 2010 groundbreaking ceremony for the center.

As designed by Williams and Tsien, the building’s light-filled glass and stone tower adjoins a three-story “podium” with a saw-tooth roof. The 170-foot tower houses a performance penthouse, screening room, rooftop deck, classrooms, rehearsal rooms, and performance labs, while the podium features studio space, music practice rooms, workshops, a café, a digital media center, production and editing labs, two theaters, and a 474-seat performance hall. Certain spaces, while accessible for special occasions and tours, will be finished during the summer and early fall.

“The Logan Center is made to be explored and discovered by students over time,” the architects wrote in a joint statement on the facility’s debut. “In doing so, this building will be for all who use the Logan Center a place where arts overlap and friendships are formed, and the exhilarating and the unimagined happen.”

Williams and Tsien’s environmentally conscious design incorporates regionally sourced materials, a “green roof,” and solar panels. The University is pursuing LEED Silver Certification for the Logan Center.

“The arts at the University of Chicago have for many years now been bubbling energetically; the Logan Center will give public face to this energy, and it will enrich the conversation and collaboration in our community as it enables the production of great art,” said Jessica Stockholder, a renowned sculptor and chair of the Department of Visual Arts.

The opening of the Logan Center is part of a broader effort to reimagine the role of the arts at UChicago. “The University of Chicago truly understands that the arts are integral to the mission of a research university,” says Larry Norman, Deputy Provost for the Arts. “The Logan Center, in partnership with our other arts initiatives and programs, will enable us to explore more deeply the relationship between theory and practice, as well as the relationship between the University and the city.”

In response to a 2001 report on the future of the arts at UChicago, the University has launched an ambitious suite of new initiatives and programs to enhance the existing UChicago Arts landscape. These include the Logan Center, the Arts and Public Life Initiative and its flagship project, the Washington Park Arts Incubator, and the Richard and Mary L. Gray Center for Arts and Inquiry. The new initiatives join academic departments and programs in the Division of the Humanities and the College, as well as professional organizations, including the Court Theatre, Oriental Institute Museum, Smart Museum of Art, and University of Chicago Presents, and more than 60 student arts organizations, in forging an integrative model for practice, presentation, and scholarship.

The Logan Center is the latest addition to the varied architectural landscape of the UChicago campus, which features buildings designed by Henry Ives Cobb, Ricardo Legoretta, Cesar Pelli, Ludwig Mies van der Rohe, Eero Saarinen, Rafael Viñoly, and Frank Lloyd Wright. The Joe and Rika Mansueto Library, designed by Helmut Jahn, has garnered international acclaim since it opened in May 2011.