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Hamilton College readies $47M arts facility for a summer opening

By Eric Reinhardt


CLINTON — Hamilton College in Clinton is preparing to open a new facility that will focus on theater and studio arts.

The Kevin and Karen Kennedy Center for Theatre and the Studio Arts will open in July with the formal dedication scheduled for Friday, Oct. 10, the school said in an April 17 news release.

The Kennedys are the lead donors on the $46.8 million project, having provided $10 million for the project, the school announced in April.

Kevin Kennedy, a former chairman of Hamilton’s board of directors, had referred to the school’s arts facilities as “antiquated” when he assumed the role in 1994.

The school made a “firm commitment” to upgrade its arts facilities in 2001, says Sam Pellman, professor of music at Hamilton College. 

He spoke with the Business Journal News Network on May 16.

Pellman has led the campus planning committee for new arts facilities at the school. He had previously been involved in the opening of the Schambach Center, a campus music facility which opened in the fall of ’88.

Hamilton formed a committee to “define the scope” of such a project, hire an architect, and generate cost estimates.

The effort has already led to the new Ruth and Elmer Wellin Museum of Art, which Hamilton opened in the fall of 2012, according to Pellman. The $16.9 million project was “entirely gift funded,” Pellman says.

Now, construction crews are completing the new $46.8 million center located across from the museum on College Hill Road.

“Most of that money has been contributed,” Pellman says. “There’s relatively little debt.”  

The facility will have two theaters, including a smaller lab theater that the school will use primarily for senior projects and visiting artists.

An acting classroom and theater sound room will also be “associated” with the lab theater. 

The new building includes a drawing studio, the print-making studio, and the painting studio for students in the art department.

It’ll also include a digital-arts suite, which is independent of the theater and art departments and will serve as shared space. The digital-arts suite has two 16-station computer classrooms and a video-production room. 

“I’ll be teaching a class there next fall on computer music,” Pellman says.

Charles A. Gaetano Construction Corp. of Utica is the contractor on the project, he says. Boston–based Machado and Silvetti Associates served as the architect.

Naming gift
Hamilton College on April 17 announced it will name its upcoming theater and studio-arts building for Kevin and Karen Kennedy, who donated $10 million for the new project. 

The honor is in recognition of the Kennedys’ lifetime donations to the college, including the gift for the project, Hamilton College said in a news release.

They are the lead donors in the nearly $47 million effort, the school said.

Kevin Kennedy is a 1970 graduate of Hamilton College and a life trustee of the college, the school said. He served as chairman of Hamilton’s board of trustees from 1994 to 2002 when the college began planning for new arts facilities.

When he became board chairman, it was “clear” that the school’s arts facilities were antiquated, Kevin Kennedy said in the news release.

“I was in a production or two in Minor Theater in the late 1960s and it was pretty clear then that it was not a first-class theater. We learned from our experience with the sciences that new facilities attract more students. These new facilities will attract more students with interests in the arts and theater,” Kennedy said.

Kevin Kennedy earned a bachelor’s degree in art from Hamilton College. He went on to earn a master’s in business administration at Harvard University. 

He worked for more than three decades as an investment banker at Goldman Sachs, retiring in 2011 as a member of the firm’s management committee. 

Kennedy currently serves as president and CEO of the Metropolitan Opera, an opera company based in New York City, the school said.

After graduating from Manhattanville College and Columbia University’s College of Physicians and Surgeons, Karen Kennedy built a “thriving” pediatric practice in New York City. 

Now retired, she serves as founding chair of the Children’s Board of Columbia at the Columbia University Medical Center and as co-chair of the American Fellows group of the Whitney Museum of American Art, the school noted.

“Karen and Kevin Kennedy are discerning patrons of the arts and of Hamilton,” Joan Hinde Stewart, president of Hamilton College, said. “We are deeply grateful for their sustaining generosity and pleased that they are allowing us to name this beautiful new building in their honor.”                          

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