A Campaign for Arts & Minds

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From the Summer 2011 Caller

In this issue you will meet some of our most creative and talented alumni, all of whom found their time at Catlin Gabel important to their creative development. Creative freedom takes place in the science lab as much as it does in the painting and drawing studio. The way the robotics team comes together to map out their technical strategy for competition is akin to drama students coming together to write, cast, stage, and perform their annual one-act plays. And the thought process a student uses to troubleshoot a buggy line of code in computer science class involves the same set of synapses as when that same student tries to figure out why her timing is off in her original film score.

Exercising the creative mind is at the core of a Catlin Gabel education. We are currently in the leadership phase of a capital campaign to raise the necessary funds to elevate this commitment to our students and their education. Catlin Gabel’s Campaign for Arts and Minds has two components: building our endowment, with special emphasis on financial aid, and building a new Creative Arts Center for the Middle and Upper Schools.
 
The campaign began quietly in the fall of 2007 and has picked up momentum during the past year. Our most loyal and engaged donors have stepped up to the challenge of investing in our students, their creative minds, and their bright futures.
 

THE ENDOWMENT

As the campaign continues, we will tell you more in future issues of the Caller about the enormous effect that our various endowed funds have on our community. With an emphasis on building endowed funds for financial aid and for general purposes, this campaign effort experienced strong growth over the past year with a lead gift from Phil and Penny Knight. As of June 30, all of our endowed funds were valued at $21,800,000.
 

THE CREATIVE ARTS CENTER

“The arts are a core of Catlin Gabel’s philosophy and are key to a well-rounded education. In no other discipline do critical thinking, problem-solving, predicting outcomes, analyzing, re-assessing, and creativity come together as they do in the arts. . . . The intellectual challenges posed by visual art, music, and theater facilitate learning in all other disciplines. These vital pursuits help make our children more thoughtful, interesting, and well-rounded—and create a life of more profundity and beauty for all of us.” —Lark Palma, head of school
 

As you’ll discover in this issue, Catlin Gabel alumni have the creative bug. They credit their time on campus, their teachers, and their progressive education for influencing their ability to create and innovate in life and in work. If organizations should play to their strengths, then Catlin Gabel’s commitment to building a creative arts center for the Middle and Upper Schools is our way of demonstrating how fundamental creativity is to our educational philosophy.
Above: Creative Arts Center facade; right, aerial view; below, lobby.

 

CREATIVE ARTS CENTER HISTORY

Catlin Gabel has dreamed about a creative arts center, one that consolidates the visual, music, and drama classrooms scattered around campus, for the last 20 years. In the late 1980s, then-headmaster Jim Scott spoke seriously about bringing all the arts under one roof. And ever since current head Lark Palma set foot on campus in 1995, it was abundantly clear to her, a veteran drama teacher, that the arts facilities needed updating.
 
And the need has continued to grow. During the past two decades, the school and our arts offerings have grown, but the square footage per student dedicated to the arts has decreased. The lack of adequate space for teaching the arts has been singled out as an important area for improvement in our last two accreditation reports by the Pacific Northwest Association of Independent Schools.
 
Finally, in 2007, Lark and the board of trustees, with input from the Catlin Gabel community, decided we could not put this off any longer. Planning for a new Creative Arts Center began in earnest that spring, led by a committee of staff, faculty, alumni, and trustees. The arts department faculty developed a set of needs and a vision for the art curriculum. Committee members visited peer schools up and down the West Coast and gathered data on best practices. All of this good work informed the original building design presented to the community in the fall of 2008 (see that issue of the Caller). Unfortunately, efforts fell short of the mark, and this initial Arts Center design did not fulfill all the programmatic and aesthetic requirements.
 
As the designs were being finalized, fundraising began in early 2008 just as winds from the looming “Great Recession” began to stir. The weak economic conditions of 2008 and 2009 exacerbated the tepid community response to the initial building design, forcing the school to make the hard yet courageous decision to pause the project so we could reevaluate and regroup.
 
In early 2010, with a year passed and time to reflect on the initial launch, the school brought the project out of hibernation. The recession had officially ended, and both enrollment and the Annual Fund were healthy. This renewed economic outlook served as a signal for the school to refocus on the project and explore new opportunities.
 
With a chance meeting between former trustee Jim John and world-renowned Portland architect Brad Cloepfil (see “Allied Works,” at right), a new phase to the project began. Brad had just finished high-profile arts projects in New York City, Montreal, and Dallas and was looking for a project back on his home turf. Jim, a seasoned developer and builder, thought that Brad would be just the person to reignite our Arts Center with a fresh and inspired design. We hope you’ll agree, when you see the design renderings, that Brad and his team delivered the right design at the right time.
 

MORE ROOM FOR CREATIVE ARTS

For US visual art, US choir, US media arts, MS drama, MS music, MS visual art
Current Square Footage: 6,786
Future Art Square Footage: 20,000
 
Creative Arts Center Layout Main Level
Gallery
Courtyard (outdoor)
Media Arts
Theater Control Room
MS Visual Arts
US Visual Arts
Shared print room
3D Studio
 
Lower Level
Black Box Theater (two levels)
Theater Tech Space
Drama Classroom
Instrumental Room
Choir Room
Music Laboratory
Practice Rooms
Instrument Storage Lockers  

GROUNDBREAKING

We expect to break ground in the fall of 2012, and the project will take about 15 months to build. This timeline is dictated entirely by how quickly our community raises the funds for design and construction. The overall project budget is estimated at $6.9 million. Prudently, our board mandates that we raise 80% of projected costs in pledges in order to break ground. As of June 30 we are just shy of having raised half of this amount, with approximately $2.3 million to go. We will look toward leadership donors this summer and fall to get us there. Please contact development director Eileen Andersen, 503-297-1894 ext. 306 or andersene@catlin.edu, to to learn more about our fundraising efforts. Catlin Gabel funds major capital projects entirely through contributions.
 
The board and administration’s conservative fiscal management has positioned the school with zero outstanding debt after completing the major construction projects of the past 20 years. The Murphy Athletic Complex, Warren Middle School, the Beehive, and most of the Upper School buildings were built without incurring debt. While this is unusual in the sea of heavily financed cultural projects throughout the city and region, it’s a distinction that makes us proud and contributes to the school’s financial health.
 

LAUNCH OF THE NEW PROJECT

The original project phase used a “design-build” strategy, where the school would contract with one firm that managed both the design and construction processes. This contractor, the Arts Center design committee, and the greater Catlin Gabel community vetted and chose the original designer after a thorough series of design proposals and presentations from a long list of architectural firms. When this second phase of the project began in early 2010, all the criteria and specifications for the building established by the committee and arts faculty in 2007 could be transferred to the new architect. This streamlined the hiring of the current designer, Allied Works Architecture. More important, this allowed us to save on the normally high costs of the schematic design phase and significantly shorten the project timeline. With the new project phase ready to launch, the school sought more project control and opted to engage both the contractor and architect directly, using separate contracts. The new arrangement encourages a healthy tension between our builder and architect by forcing both parties to balance the budget.
 

James E. John Construction

James E. John Construction (JEJ), the project general contractor, is a subsidiary of C. E. John Company, Inc., a diversified real estate development and management firm founded in 1947. Although JEJ is known for its Class A office and retail projects, it became clear early in the process that the firm not only had the talent and the resources to build a Brad Cloepfil building, but a keen understanding of how the new classrooms and spaces fit the needs of students and teachers. Current parent and former trustee Jim John, the project principal, provides close and careful management.
 

Allied Works

We are privileged to have our building designed by a world-renowned museum and creative space architect. Brad Cloepfil and his Allied Works Architecture team developed what has been overwhelmingly received by our community as an inspired, practical, and beautiful design. Portland native Brad Cloepfil studied architecture at the University of Oregon and earned an advanced degree from the Columbia University Graduate School of Architecture. In fact, his teacher and mentor at Oregon was Thomas Hacker, the principal architect and master planner for much of the Upper School you see today, including the Miller Library and Hillman Modern Languages buildings. Since Brad founded Allied Works in 1994, he has won commissions for some of the highest-profile cultural projects across the country, from the Contemporary Art Museum in St. Louis to the adaptive reuse of Manhattan’s Museum of Arts and Design on Columbus Circle. His West Coast projects include the renovated headquarters of Wieden + Kennedy in Portland’s Pearl District, the Seattle Art Museum, and a recently completed expansion of the Pixar Animation Studios headquarters in Emeryville, California. Allied Works’ art education facilities include the award-winning Booker T. Washington High School for the Performing and Visual Arts in Dallas (alumnae include Nora Jones, Edie Brickell, and Erykah Badu), the University of Michigan Museum of Art, and the Caldera Arts Center in Sisters, Oregon. “Catlin Gabel’s project for the new arts building means a tremendous amount to me,” says Brad. “To build on that beautiful campus, with the legacy of great architecture by John Storrs and Thomas Hacker, is a true gift. We have worked with faculty and students to create a building that will be a beautiful catalyst for creativity, not only in the visual and performing arts, but for the entire curriculum of the school. It truly is a laboratory, one that will encourage the students to develop new ideas and forms of expression.”