Valley News – Dartmouth details plans to renovate Hopkins Center for the Arts


HANOVER – The renovated and expanded Hopkins Center for the Arts includes a new recital hall and dance performance space between the existing arts center and the Hanover Inn, adding new functionality to the view from the green.

The prominent new wing was among project details released by the college on Thursday. The preliminary design outlines significant changes to the 60-year-old arts center, and a refined estimate shows the project will cost $88 million, about $13 million more than estimates a year ago.

The project, which requires 15,000 square feet of new construction and 55,000 square feet of renovated space, is expected to start this fall, with construction expected to last through early 2025. As the project unfolds, the Hop will host programs elsewhere, Mary Lou Aleskie, director of the Hopkins Center, said Thursday.

“We plan to not only be around campus but also around the community,” Aleskie said.

Among the first venues to be renovated will be the Spaulding Auditorium, which will allow the Hop to host performances there while other spaces will be renovated, Aleskie said.

Changes to the Hop include the removal of the college mailroom or Hinman boxes. Darling Court, inside the Hop, and Zahm Court, nestled between the Hop and the Hanover Inn where the new wing would be, would also be removed.

Zahm’s Court, which was renovated a decade ago, houses the majority of Dartmouth’s memorials to its war dead, including troops killed in World War II, Korea and Vietnam, as well as a 9/11 memorial.

“They’re transferring to campus,” Aleskie said. “I don’t think there are final decisions on exactly where, but they are preserved.”

Alumni Hall, a meeting room tucked away on the Hop’s second floor, would be converted into a multipurpose black box theater, and the Hop’s entrance would be redesigned.

Other spaces in the famed arts center will be upgraded but retain their familiar outlines, including the Spaulding Auditorium, Top of the Hop and basement workshops for woodworking, ceramics and jewelry making.

While the estimated cost has risen from $75 million last year to $88 million now, donations to the project have increased even further, from $25 million in February 2021 to $50.1 million now. The higher cost is attributable to more in-depth estimates and identifying needs not included in initial plans, Aleskie said.

“There is an appetite for the project,” among alumni and the wider community, she said.

Contributors include notable Dartmouth arts graduates including television producer David Benioff, actors Connie Britton, Rachel Dratch, Mindi Kaling and Sharon Washington, and film producer Chris Meledandri. The college is still on the hunt for a senior gift, the kind of big-money token that could add a name to that of Ernest Martin Hopkins, who served as Dartmouth’s 11th president from 1916 to 1945.

When it opened in 1962, the Hopkins Center was one of the first such university centers, bringing together all of the arts under one roof. Wallace Harrison’s design foreshadowed his work on the Metropolitan Opera, which opened in 1966. The New York office of Snøhetta, a global architecture and design firm, is designing the renovation and expansion.

The development in Dartmouth over the past decade of an arts district, which includes the Black Family Visual Arts Center on Lebanon Street and the renovated and expanded Hood Museum of Art, indicates how interest in the arts has grown. has increased over the past 60 years.

Students are the main force behind the renovation plan, Aleskie said. Waiting lists for art classes have doubled in the five years she has been at Dartmouth, and the college is home to a range of student sets clamoring for practice space. Dartmouth has spawned some notable dance ensembles and new works in dance despite not having a dedicated space for the art form, Aleskie noted.

Plans released Thursday are still being refined as the project progresses toward construction. Aleskie promised a “very robust fall performance term” before The Hop closes around Thanksgiving for more than two years.

Alex Hanson can be reached at [email protected] or 603-727-3207.

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