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Modlin Center for the Arts

Historic Sites, Monuments, Landmarks, and Public Art ()

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The George M. Modlin Center for the Arts is a Collegiate Gothic style building that rests on the southern corner of campus at the University of Richmond. It houses Booker Hall, the Visual Arts Building, the Alice Jepson Theater, and other facilities for the arts.


The Modlin Box Office.
A performance at Modlin.

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The George M. Modlin Center for the Arts is a Collegiate Gothic style building that rests on the southern corner of campus at the University of Richmond. It houses Booker Hall, the Visual Arts Building, the Alice Jepson Theater, and other facilities for the arts. 

The development of a fine arts building was initially proposed by the University in 1937 in conjunction with the creation of a department of Fine Arts. It is telling that this proposal was 107 years after Richmond College was founded and 24 years after Westhampton College entered into  the University. It took many years for the arts to be considered worthy of serious incorporation into the University’s programs, despite various arts groups and traditions that existed on campus, including a glee club, the Westhampton Music Club, and the senior plays. 

It was not until 1964, 57 years after the proposal of the fine arts building, that a drive to finance the project began. The goal of the drive was $1.5 million to finance a new men’s dormitory, additional University facilities, and the fine arts building. Issues with construction, particularly financial details, dominated the discourse about the building at the time. The University surpassed its goal for the money drive but attempted to bid down the cost of the building with the Bass Construction company. Construction was also delayed because of complicated acoustics problems that compromised the success of the building. The development of Modlin was not without complications, most notably those that were financial. It is relevant to consider that the University had not yet received the generous Robins donation that was integral to Richmond’s survival as an institution. 

In 1968 the George M. Modlin Fine Arts building opened, named in honor of the President of the University from 1946 to 1971. The building was showcased at an extravagant fine arts festival and alumni reception, reflecting the University’s pride in its support of the arts. Upon its opening, Modlin housed art, art history, drama and speech programs, all of which had been previously located elsewhere on campus. 

The creation of Modlin reflects the University’s devotion to the accessibility of the arts for both genders. Women have historically faced discrimination in the arts and have been excluded from marching bands and other performance groups. The University did not adhere to such discrimination, and since the 1920’s the Westhampton Music Club and Westhampton Women’s Glee Club gave women an opportunity to perform on campus. The Modlin Fine Arts  building was constructed on Westhampton side of campus, making it convenient for women to reach the building and participate in arts programs. 

In 1974, Barbara McMurtry, chairman of the Music Department, was interviewed by the Collegian regarding a lack of space for all the programs in the Modlin building, but it was not until 1992 that the building was expanded. At this time, it was connected with Keller Hall, a housing space that included a gymnasium. The University had to release the initial contractors of the project because they could not guarantee a suitable maximum budget for the project. The area in Keller with Crenshaw pool became part of a theatre complex with a theatre, dance venue and shop space.

This expansion was met with significant pushback. Athletic officials, specifically the swim team coaches, were inconvenienced by the closing of Crenshaw pool and asserted that one program was promoted at the price of another. Members of the community who used the pool for recreation and exercise expressed their dismay about losing the facility. Still, the project was defended by Richmond’s Art department chair, who maintained that Richmond’s art department was lacking in comparison to that of other colleges. The University remained firm in its belief that the expansion was a worthy cause and would motivate students to come to more plays and concerts. This period of conflict exemplifies the perpetual struggle the University faces in sustaining various programs and the inevitable trade-offs. 

Throughout the years, the University faced periods of financial trouble and struggled with balancing the needs of various programs. The construction of buildings was often riddled with complications and delays. Through the development and renovation of the Modlin Fine Arts building, the University enabled the arts to flourish and become accessible to all students, as seen today in Richmond’s robust arts program. The music department’s free concert series puts on 23 concerts annually, while the ModlinArts Presents series brings more than 40 world-class performing arts events to the University. Student performing arts groups such as the University Band and Schola Cantorum practice weekly and perform several times a semester. The University plans to continue updating Modlin with various projects such as the addition of a new dance and acting studio, update of Booker Hall and reworking of the Visual Arts Building and Keller Hall. Through its continued devotion to the development of the Modlin Fine Arts Building, the University of Richmond remains strong in its celebration of those talents which are too commonly overlooked.

Sources

1"University History." History of the University of Richmond: Architecture - University of Richmond. Accessed November 21, 2016. http://urhistory.richmond.edu/architecture/ 

2"Music Club Meets." The Collegian (Richmond), April 9, 1920, 22nd ed. Accessed November 21, 2016. http://collegian.richmond.edu/cgi-bin/richmond?a=d&d=COL19200409.2.24&srpos=5&e=------192-en-20--1--... music------#.

3 "University History." History of the University of Richmond: Architecture - University of Richmond. Accessed November 21, 2016. http://urhistory.richmond.edu/architecture/.

4 "Acoustics Problem Delays Planning of Arts Building." The Collegian (Richmond), November 12, 1965, 9th ed. Accessed November 21, 2016. http://collegian.richmond.edu/cgi-bin/richmond?a=d&d=COL19651112.2.8&srpos=1&e=------196-en-20--1--t... construction------. 

 5 "University History." History of the University of Richmond: Architecture - University of Richmond. Accessed November 21, 2016. http://urhistory.richmond.edu/architecture/

6 "Alumni Day Focuses on Modlin." The Collegian Newspaper Archives. Accessed November 21, 2016. http://collegian.richmond.edu/cgi-bin/richmond?a=d&d=COL19710514.2.13&srpos=2&e=-------en-20--1--txt... alumni------. 

7 "Music Club Meets." The Collegian (Richmond), April 9, 1920, 22nd ed. Accessed November 21, 2016. http://collegian.richmond.edu/cgi-bin/richmond?a=d&d=COL19200409.2.24&srpos=5&e=------192-en-20--1--... music------#.

8 "University History." History of the University of Richmond: Architecture - University of Richmond. Accessed November 21, 2016. http://urhistory.richmond.edu/architecture/.

9 "University History." History of the University of Richmond: Architecture - University of Richmond. Accessed November 21, 2016. http://urhistory.richmond.edu/architecture/

10 "Keller Pool May Close." The Collegian (Richmond), January 23, 1992, 14th ed. Accessed November 21, 2016. http://collegian.richmond.edu/cgi-bin/richmond?a=d&d=COL19920123.2.13&srpos=2&e=------199-en-20--1--... building pool------#

Address
28 Westhampton Way
University of Richmond, Virginia 23173
Tags
  • Architecture and Historical Buildings
  • Cultural History
  • History of Public and Higher Education
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This location was created on 2016-12-07 by Eve Gilles .   It was last updated on 2017-02-24 by Clio Admin .

This entry has been viewed 565 times within the past year

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