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August 06, 2021

Penn unveils plans for new student performing arts center

The university aims to build a 36,000-square-foot facility near 33rd and Chestnut streets

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Penn Arts Plans Thom Carroll/for PhillyVoice

A new performing arts center planned at the University of Pennsylvania will serve undergraduate student groups in theater, dance, instrumental and vocal music, comedy and spoken word.

The University of Pennsylvania will design and construct a new performing arts center for students at the University City campus, anticipating a rise in demand for creative spaces among undergraduates at the Ivy League school.

The preliminary plan calls for a 36,000-square-foot facility at 33rd Street and Woodland Walk, adjacent to Lauder and Hill College Houses near King's Court English College House, university officials said.

Penn Map Performing ArtsSource/University of Pennsylvania

A map shows the proposed site for Penn's new student performing arts center.

"The proposed center would serve along with the Platt House, Irvine Auditorium, Houston Hall, Iron Gate Theatre, as well as additional spaces at the ARCH, to create a consortium of spaces for undergraduate students who are making important, imaginative, and innovative strides in theater, dance, instrumental and vocal music, comedy, and spoken word," Penn president Amy Gutmann said.

Planners described the project as entirely student-centered and said it will include a 450-seat theater and contemporary stage. The facility also would have teaching, rehearsal, and practice space, and back-of-the-house support.

The proposal grew from a 2019 study that determined Penn's undergraduates need more performing arts space. The study drew from the university's Performing Arts Council, which has four student councils representing 47 student groups, in addition to about 30 other unaffiliated groups.

The university is now in the process of of reviewing the proposal, conducting architect interviews and collecting student input. Architect selection and project approval are expected this fall.