Building for curriculum, culture, and community: Q&A

Building for curriculum, culture, and community: Q&A

George Givens is a Project Superintendent at O&G Industries who has worked with many independent schools on a range of construction projects. The Frederick Gunn School’s Thomas A. Perakos Arts & Community Center offered a rare opportunity to make a statement about the arts, the environment, and connection to the community.

Q: What was the context for your involvement in building the Gunn School’s new Center?

GG: The school’s Master Plan staked out a commitment to core values like transparency,  openness, inclusion, collaboration, and innovation. The Arts and Community Center was the first step of the Master Plan so it had to capture these values and still be a best-in-class arts venue.

Q: Talk about how the Center fits in the scheme of the campus

A: The Frederick Gunn School campus is in Washington, CT. If you’ve never been there you should go. It’s in a beautiful setting of hills and trees and the Center is near the main entrance opposite the dining hall and student center, so it’s a high-visibility location. The Frederick Gunn School is also committed to outdoor gathering spaces to keep people connected, which is why the exterior of the Center has a sculpture garden, patio, and plaza for students and the local community.

Q: What are some of the interior features that make it well-suited for performances?

GG: It’s remarkable. The auditorium has 415 seats so it can handle the whole school. It has sidewall baffling that creates excellent acoustics. The rigging and lighting are equal to Broadway productions and top college theater programs. There’s also a construction shop for building and assembling sets.

Q: What about visual arts?

GG: There’s gallery space for permanent collections and student work, areas for reception and meetings as well as classrooms and studio space. There’s a darkroom and photography studio, a ceramics studio…the list goes on.

Q: Did they get the “wow factor” that they wanted?

GG: When you walk into the theater or browse through the art exhibits, or look up and see the 8-foot round contemporary chandeliers, yeah, it’s pretty impressive. Showing parents that this is a place where their kids will thrive and develop their talents makes it all worthwhile.