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McGrath Family Performing Arts Center

Wilmette, IL


Best of Block, Masonry Advisory Council

Photography: Steve Hall / Hall + Merrick + McCaugherty

Photography: Miller + Miller

Designed to strengthen every student’s relationship to the arts, the McGrath Family Performing Arts Center plays a pivotal role in the Jesuit education at Loyola Academy. The new addition includes a 560-seat state-of-the-art theater and stage house, full back-of-house functions, a multi-purpose lobby, and an art gallery spine that connects back to the existing main building. This project has given Loyola the opportunity to develop new artistic programming and allowed students to understand the world in new ways through art and performance – a central aspect of the school’s educational mission.

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The design creates opportunities for cultural innovation on campus by creating unexpected moments of connection. The exterior stage, with its relationship to the new quad, is a platform for new modes of expression that makes the fine arts accessible to all students. In its first three months of operation, the project has proven to be a cultural asset, providing the student body with new experiences and collaborations that were not previously possible. These collaborations have impacted the curriculum beyond the Fine Arts department and student growth beyond academics.

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Proposing a 72’ high stage house and fly tower in a residential neighborhood required a variance from the local jurisdiction, a hurdle that was only achievable through listening, open communication with neighbors, and issuing direct responses to concerns. Our team hosted a pre-pandemic, in-person open house to share the project during Schematic Design whose goal was to solicit valuable feedback toward approval of the variance. Over fifty community members attended, identifying pressure points related to overshadowing, light pollution, and traffic. A follow-up (virtual) open house was hosted at the start of Design Development to share design modifications and respond to points of concern.

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