Wheaton College celebrates renovated performing arts center
Once an outdated math and science building headed toward the wrecking ball, Wheaton College's Armerding Hall is getting a new life.
Hundreds of staff members, students and alumni gathered outside the refurbished building Friday to dedicate the newly transformed Armerding Center for Music and the Arts.
The interior of the hall at 520 E. Kenilworth Ave. has been gutted and rebuilt "from the inside out" to include a digital keyboard lab, two recording studios attached to music performance spaces, practice rooms, a music learning lab, chamber music rooms, teaching studios, a choral rehearsal hall and a 110-seat recital hall.
Michael Wilder, dean of the conservatory, arts and communication, said the first priority, integral to the planning of the building, was the acoustics, with some rooms separated by as many as seven sheets of drywall on double-studded walls.
"In every room, we asked 'How will this sound?'" Wilder said. "We checked matters of sound isolation, reflection, absorption and reverberation. Every angle, line and material in this building is critical to the matter of acoustics."
President Philip Ryken thanked faculty for their patience, perseverance and planning for a building they "desperately needed." But he said he hopes the work is not complete.
"We have a vision for a 648-seat concert hall. That's the one thing not in the new building and it's something we still feel called to pursue," he said.
Within the past month, an anonymous donor committed $10 million to the project bringing donations up to $40 million. Ryken said he is praying for two more $5 million donations to make the concert hall a reality.
"Why is this so important to us?" Wilder asked. "It turns out that music is one of the most enjoyable, engaging, healing, expressive, uplifting and addictive of human activities. In a way, we can't really help it."