Under Construction: Where to find arts on campus amidst Hopkins Center renovations
The arts displays and performances typically held in the Hopkins Center are now spread across campus and the Upper Valley.
This article is featured in the 2023 Freshman special issue.
In a typical year, the Hopkins Center for the Arts is a hub for creative activity on campus, containing the majority of arts-related departments and resources within its walls. This year, as the Hop remains under construction, arts on campus will look a little different. According to Hop executive director Mary Lou Aleskie, all of the Hop’s usual artistic offerings will remain accessible to students — only now, they are spread throughout over a dozen locations across campus.
“We’re really excited to be able to continue to provide all of the services and programs that we normally do for students and the community,” Aleskie said.
Despite the challenges posed by the construction, Aleskie is optimistic that spreading arts throughout campus will make them accessible to more people.
“It’s a little bit like Hansel and Gretel: We’re putting out the breadcrumbs and then hoping people follow us back,” Aleskie said.
This article is here to help you find those breadcrumbs — think of this as a guide to where to find arts on campus, from Maffei Plaza to Sudikoff Hall.
The basement of the Hop is typically home to three studios — the Woodworking shop, the Donald Claflin Jewelry Studio and the Ceramics Studio. Due to the renovation, the Woodworking shop has relocated to a mobile unit in Maffei Plaza, adjacent to the Black Family Visual Arts Center, and the Jewelry and Ceramics Studios share a converted painting studio in BVAC, according to Aleskie.
Both the Jewelry Studio and the Woodworking shop have been able to retain most of the functionality of their original spaces, according to Jewelry Studio director Jeffrey Georgantes and Woodworking shop director Gregory Elder.
“One of the things that I’m super proud of is that we were able to bring over almost all the same technology that we had over in the old [Jewelry] Studio,” Georgantes said. “There’s two things we didn’t bring over: We didn’t bring over glass beads, and we didn’t bring over a sandblaster. But other than that, everything that we could do in the old studio, we can do in this studio.”
Elder also expressed pride in the Woodworking shop’s temporary setup, noting that the temporary studio has “everything we have in the other shop, but fewer tools and smaller space.”
“People like the space. They come in and they look around, and they go, ‘oh, this is really nice,’” Elder said. “So that’s made us very happy — that people … like being here.”
Both the Jewelry Studio and Woodworking shop have lower physical capacity than they did in the Hop. The new Jewelry Studio now holds 10 students at a time, rather than 12, according to Georgantes. However, he said the smaller size has not seriously impacted the functions of the studio.
The new Woodworking shop’s small size — 960-square-feet, significantly smaller than the shop’s previous 6,000-square-foot home in the Hop — has placed constraints on larger projects, which take up more physical space and require more parts, according to Elder.
“In the other shop, we would almost never say no to a project. In this shop, we have to say no occasionally,” Elder said. “When we first opened, somebody walked in and said they wanted to build a canoe. I said, ‘You can’t do that in here, there’s not enough room.’”
Elder added that although the temporary Woodworking shop lacks the room for certain tools, they are accessible elsewhere on campus. For example, while the Woodshop no longer has access to a CNC wood router, a machine users can program to carve out complex shapes in wood, students who need to use the tool can find one in the Thayer School of Engineering, according to Elder.
“We’re losing a little bit of efficiency if we have to go somewhere else to do it,” Elder said. “[But] students get to make other connections on campus if we go somewhere else and work and meet other people and learn other tools.”
Last year, the proposed plan for the relocated Woodworking shop became the subject of controversy — the temporary woodshop would not accommodate the use of power tools. As a result, Mimi Lan ’Th and Chris Magoon ’13 Th’14 created a petition to “save the Woodworking shop,” fighting for increased access to power tools and a larger temporary space. The petition successfully secured greater access to power tools, but the size of the temporary studio remained the same. However, Lan said she is satisfied with the current functionality overall.
“It is a little limiting, but I’m still very happy. I feel like it’s the best compromise for everybody, given that the Hop was closing and that there wasn’t really a great space to move the Woodshop to,” Lan said.
Magoon also expressed that he was impressed with the eventual implementation of the temporary Woodshop.
“[Elder] and [woodworking instructor] Pete [Michelinie] have set up that shop amazingly well. It’s more like what you’d have in a really well-kitted out basement workshop … rather than the amazing industrial scale tools they had before, but I think it’s worked to maintain functionality and stay close to campus,” Magoon said.
The Hop usually houses the theater department, along with several theater spaces to hold department and student productions. Now, theater groups perform across campus in locations converted into performance spaces, and some have taken their shows outside or off campus.
The theater department primarily uses rooms in 4 Currier Place and Wilson Hall for their performances. The Currier Place theater is “a lovely … fully-equipped blackbox [theater] space,” according to Aleskie, and she described the space in Wilson as a “similar, but slightly smaller blackbox theater.”
According to the theater department’s production manager Brianna Parry, the department has spent the last several terms preparing these “two little gems of a theater space” and furnishing them with proper theater equipment.
“[Currier Place] was just a big empty room, and we have transformed it into a proscenium theater space,” Parry said. “It’s a lovely little intimate space. The energy is really good, and it’s funny because we’ve taken all of our gear that is really appropriate for bigger spaces and put it into these teeny spaces, so these spaces have nice gear in them.”
The theater department scene shop and costume shop, which also used to reside in the Hop, have been moved to Sudikoff Hall, according to Parry. These spaces are smaller than their original locations in the Hop, but continue to provide opportunities for students to volunteer or work.
Displaced Theatre Company, a student-run theater group, has explored additional avenues for performance venues. In addition to performing in Currier Place, the group has performed in Sarner Underground, Sawtooth Kitchen and House Center B, also known as the Cube, according to company manager Kamila Boga ’25.
Displaced was originally founded in 2001 with the intention of performing in unconventional theater spaces, Boga said. She feels the Hop renovation has pushed the group to “keep the spirit of the original mission statement alive.”
“The [founders] always tried to challenge themselves to use alternative spaces and see how those spaces can be of service to telling a story,” Boga said.
While Displaced has been able to operate despite the loss of the Hop, as a theater major, Boga said she was nonetheless disappointed to lose access to the Hop.
“One thing that was particularly devastating is that [theater students] don’t have a home base anymore,” Boga said. “It’s already really hard to find and continue community because the theater scene is so very intimate at Dartmouth, and losing that home base has been pretty disappointing.”
However, for students who plan to enter the theater industry after college, Parry sees working in smaller spaces like Currier Place and Wilson Hall as a valuable learning opportunity.
“These little theaters are probably what they will be working in when they graduate. I’m excited that our students will have all of this practice figuring out creative ways to fit things in and to block for challenging spaces,” Parry said.
Music and Dance Ensembles
There are approximately 300 students who participate in the Hop’s various performance ensembles, according to Aleskie. Now that they have moved out of the Hop, these groups have had to find new practice spaces and performance venues that accommodate their size and performance needs.
Dartmouth’s music ensembles, including Coast Jazz Ensemble, Dartmouth College Wind Ensemble and Dartmouth Symphony Orchestra, now rehearse in the basement of the Church of Christ at Dartmouth, according to Aleskie.
There are also music practice rooms and instrument storage spaces in Sudikoff Hall, according to Coast member Mateo Oyola ’24. These practice rooms are first-come, first-serve and are open to anyone, Coast member Amy Norton ’23 said.
Dartmouth Dance Ensemble’s rehearsal spaces were less affected: Even before the renovation, the group practiced in Straus Dance Studio in Alumni Gym, so the group did not have to relocate their rehearsals, according to DDE director John Heginbotham.
Wind Ensemble director Brian Messier, DSO director Filippo Ciabatti and Coast director Taylor Ho Bynum all said that their respective ensembles adjusted smoothly to the move to the Church of Christ.
In some ways, moving to the church has been a positive experience for Coast, Bynum said. Previously in the Hop, the group shared Hartman music space with five classes and three ensembles, but in the church, Coast has a “dedicated” room.
“I feel like [Coast has], in some ways, a more dedicated home on campus than we’ve ever had,” Bynum said.
There were still some challenges that came with the move, however. Nathaniel Chen ’25, a member of Wind Ensemble, noted that the distance between the instrument storage spaces in Sudikoff and the rehearsal spaces in the church is less convenient than the Hop, which had both spaces under one roof.
Many of these groups used to perform in Hopkins Center theaters or auditoriums, so each group has also had to find new performance spaces. DSO now uses Rollins Chapel as a concert venue, according to Ciabatti. Although the space is smaller than the group’s former performance locations, Ciabatti said that the space has good acoustics and his students have “adjusted quite quickly.”
Last year, Coast performed in Collis Common Ground, and they held their senior feature concert in the Hanover Inn Ballroom, according to Bynum.
“The Hop production team has done a really amazing job of converting Collis Common Ground or the Hanover Inn Ballroom into a sort of impromptu jazz club for a night,” Norton said. “It’s been really awesome to see how they do that and [to] be able to perform in new spaces.”
While DDE once performed at locations like the Moore Theater or Spaulding Auditorium, now the group primarily performs at the Bema and in Straus Dance Studio, according to Heginbotham.
“Dance is something that is really malleable in a lot of ways, and we’re happy to take it to non-traditional spaces,” Heginbotham said.
Although performing outdoors can be more challenging than performing in a controlled, indoor environment, Heginbotham said that he valued the opportunity for the group to perform in the Bema, and he hopes the ensemble will perform in the space again even after the renovation.
“It’s really beautiful and kind of peaceful and magical in some ways that are really supportive of the kind of dance that we do,” Heginbotham said.
As the largest student ensemble on campus, the Wind Ensemble found it difficult to find a performance venue on campus that was large enough to accommodate the full group. As a result, the group has begun traveling off campus to outside performance venues, according to Messier.
This past year, the group performed at Smith College in Massachusetts and went on tour in Mexico, according to Messier. This fall, Wind Ensemble will perform in Jordan Hall at New England Conservatory in Boston, which Messier described as “one of the premier venues not just in New England, but in the world.”
“With the performances, we turned what could have been an inconvenience into new and really exciting opportunities,” Messier said.
However, some members of Wind Ensemble said they miss being able to perform on campus, especially because most of the Dartmouth community is unable to travel to their concerts.
“It’s just inconvenient for us to not be able to perform at our home venue,” Chen said. “I think a lot of us love performing for friends and having our friends there to support us.”
Just as members of the Class of 2027 are acclimating to their new life on campus, arts students and faculty are still adjusting to this new arts landscape. Despite the Hop’s current status as a work in progress, the pulse of the arts can still be felt across campus. Construction is scheduled to be completed in 2025, but until then, enjoy the little pockets of the Hop scattered across campus.