New Performing Arts Center at SUNY Potsdam will solidify college’s future, president says
Thursday, December 5, 2013 - 11:51 am


Following the ceremony, the representatives gathered for a photo before cutting the ribbon to the Performing Arts Center. Clockwise, from top left: Tim Tyler of Northland Associates, Department of Theatre and Dance Associate Professor Kimberley Bouchard, Lorenzo Mattii of Pfeiffer Partners Architects, Theatre and Dance Chair Jay Pecora, state Assemblyman Marc Butler '74, Theatre and Dance student Kristy Allen, state Assemblywoman Addie Jenne Russell, Provost Margaret Madden, state Senator Joseph Griffo, College Council Chair June O'Neill and Interim President Dennis L. Hefner.

POTSDAM – SUNY Potsdam’s future is brighter with the completion of the college’s new Performing Arts Center.

State officials including SUNY Chancellor Nancy L. Zimpher expressed pride in the new $55 million Performing Arts Center, the first new academic building on campus in 40 years.

SUNY Potsdam celebrated Wednesday with a ribbon cutting in a special ceremony Wednesday. Now in the final stages, construction crews are working around the clock to put the finishing touches on the Performing Arts Center before it opens for classes in January.

“This remarkable building, with its state-of-the-art performance and learning spaces, will help cement our status as SUNY’s leading arts campus,” said Interim President Dr. Dennis L. Hefner. “The Performing Arts Center will allow SUNY Potsdam’s culture of creativity to further blossom and grow, will expand our ability to merge together technology and the arts, and will attract audiences from across the region,”

The construction of the Performing Arts Center created approximately 344 regional jobs and an estimated $128 million in economic activity during construction, according to the college’s count.

To see a time-lapse video of the construction, use the YouTube link at the bottom of this story.

In keeping with the building’s eventual mission, the ceremony kicked off with a flash mob of dance students performing an impromptu piece choreographed by Associate Professor of Dance Donald Borsh in the new lobby. Props and costumes from past college productions were on display.

“SUNY Potsdam is a first-choice destination for performing arts students worldwide, and the new center promises to lift the college’s highly acclaimed programs in theater and the arts even higher,” said SUNY Chancellor Nancy Zimpher. “This is a proud and exciting day for SUNY and for the many students, faculty, staff and visitors who are certain to benefit from the Performing Arts Center for years to come.”

The Performing Arts Center will house SUNY Potsdam’s Department of Theatre and Dance, and connects to The Crane School of Music. The 97,000-square-foot facility is set to be one of the best performance venues north of New York City, with a 350-seat proscenium theater, a 200-seat black box theater and a 200-seat dance performance hall.

State Sen. Joseph Griffo, who advocated funding for the building in the state Legislature, spoke at the ceremony.

“Can you feel the energy and the excitement? Isn’t it great? Just from the performance we saw, but you can feel it in the building. And I think that is what is so significant about today,” Griffo said.

“It’s another historic milestone in the life of this great college. It’s an opportunity for us to reflect and to celebrate our past, our present and the future. It’s an opportunity for us to recognize and appreciate over a decade ago when the seeds were germinating of an idea of how to continue to enhance this college and to attract new students, to broaden our horizons.

“Where better than on a college campus can we contemplate, reflect and envision the potential and the possibilities that exist? And that opportunity came from a lot of good people,” said Griffo, who district includes a swath of central St. Lawrence County from Massena and Brasher to Clifton, Fine and Pitcairn.

Griffo was joined by state Assembly members Addie Jenne Russell, who represents Potsdam, and Marc Butler a 1974 SUNY Potsdam alumnus.

Home to the State University of New York’s first theater education program, SUNY Potsdam’s Department of Theatre and Dance is dedicated to bringing the performing arts to students of all ages. Its outreach programs bring educational plays to 7,000 northern New York school children each year, with programs offered in their districts and on campus, in addition to the many educational opportunities the department offers through summer camps and special events, and to the many community members who attend performances every semester.

The Performing Arts Center’s light-infused lobby with its adjacent café will serve as an “arts avenue” displaying student works, while providing a variety of seating areas for socializing and collaborating. In addition, the arts avenue doubles as a special events space and reception area. The lobby will also provide students with a convenient weather-protected connection from the building’s southeast entry to The Crane School of Music at Bishop Hall.

The center’s innovative educational resources include advanced laboratories for education, digital and audio design, drafting and lighting. The facility will also feature movement studios for dance and theater, as well as a recording studio, crafts and costume lab and an archive for costumes and props. A full complement of performer support spaces, including dressing rooms and a green room, are also provided.

To see a time-lapse video looking back at the construction of the Performing Arts Center, visit