Lewis Arts Complex

Four-day festival to celebrate opening of the Lewis Arts complex

To celebrate the opening of Princeton University’s new Lewis Arts complex (northwest view from the Dinky train station, above), a Festival of the Arts will take place Oct. 5-8, featuring over 100 concerts, plays, readings, dance performances, art exhibitions, screenings, workshops and site-specific events across campus, all open to the public. Most events are free.

Princeton University’s Lewis Center for the Arts and Department of Music will celebrate the opening of the new Lewis Arts complex with a Festival of the Arts Oct. 5 through 8, open to the public.

The festival will feature over 100 concerts, plays, readings, dance performances, art exhibitions, multidisciplinary presentations, film screenings, community workshops, performances by student arts groups and site-specific events at venues across the campus, most of which will be free. Participatory free events for community members include two open dance classes, a West African drumming workshop and a community reading of Beethoven's "Choral Fantasy" — the precursor to the well-known "Ode to Joy" (registration required). The festival is a campus-wide celebration of the arts, including the Princeton University Art Museum: During the weekend, visitors to the museum can view two special exhibitions, “Transient Effects: The Solar Eclipses and Celestial Landscapes of Howard Russell Butler” and “Clarence White and His World.” On the Festival of the Arts website, visitors can view all the events and sign up for email updates.

The Lewis Arts complex anchors a 22-acre development that also includes two restaurants, a WaWa convenience store and the new Princeton train station. The complex is surrounded by a park-like setting with extensive landscaped plazas, pathways and green spaces.

“The creative and performing arts inspire innovative thinking and a deeper understanding of the human condition — they are tremendously important to the University, and an integral part of the education we provide to our students,” Princeton University President Christopher L. Eisgruber said. “The opening of the new Lewis Arts complex is an extraordinary milestone for Princeton that will usher in a brilliant new era of arts scholarship, training, exploration and performance. I am grateful to Peter B. Lewis, Peter's family and the other donors who helped us to realize this dream. I hope that the campus and local community will join us for the opening festival and for years to come at this splendid new home for artistic expression and imaginative activity.”

“At this pivotal moment in Princeton’s history, its physical campus, its curriculum, and its relationship to the wider community, we are throwing open our doors to celebrate the arts!” Michael Cadden, senior lecturer in theater in the Lewis Center for the Arts and chair of the Lewis Center, said. “We want to share our excitement about this new chapter in the life of the University with friends near and far, from our past and from our present. The light-filled spaces of [architect] Steven Holl’s design of the new Lewis Arts complex will fire the imaginations of our current and future students, faculty, guest artists and audiences. This is an arts laboratory worthy of Princeton’s status as a world-class research university — a symbol, in Paul Muldoon’s words, of ‘Princeton in the service of the imagination.’ We invite the world to come party with us — both in and around our new buildings and at events across a campus now fully mapped with arts venues.”   

"We are delighted to offer to the University, the Princeton community, and our many friends and guests a veritable feast of artistic delights,” Wendy Heller, the Scheide Professor of Music History and chair of the Department of Music, said. “We celebrate not only the opening of these beautiful spaces and what they promise our students for the future, but the extraordinary accomplishments of all of our students and faculty, past and present, in the performing and creative arts."

Festival highlights

The festival weekend will open on Thursday, Oct. 5, with the biennial Princeton Poetry Festival in McCarter Theatre Center's Berlind Theatre and will showcase poets from around the world. Highlights of the festival include:

A Festival of the Arts at Princeton logo
  • Two performances by the Norwegian Baroque ensemble Barokksolistene, kicking off the 2017-18 Princeton University Concerts series, on Thursday, Oct. 5: a program of Purcell and his contemporaries at 6 p.m. in Richardson Auditorium, and a more casual program at 9:30 p.m. in the Lewis Center Forum, which will be transformed into a 17th-century English pub.
  • Premiering on Friday evening, Oct. 6, is a commissioned multimedia work "Fanfare Wave," performed outdoors, featuring original music performed on specially made electronic instruments, combined with kinetic lighting, wave robotics and rigging, all interacting with the buildings' architecture.
  • Beginning on Friday, Oct. 6, and running through the weekend, "Theater for One" pairs one actor and one audience member for the performance of a short play in an intimate booth.
  • On Friday, Oct. 6, the Princeton University Chapel will be transformed with a six-hour multimedia installation "Of Matter and Mass" by graduate student Bora Yoon, featuring sounds of nature, changing light and color.
  • Throughout Saturday, Oct. 7, an ArtWalk will feature performances by Sō Percussion, the Edward T. Cone Performers-in-Residence, of commissioned pieces by Princeton alumni composers that respond to outdoor public sculptures across campus.
  • Richardson Auditorium will be transformed into a surround-sound experience on Saturday, Oct. 7, with "Princeton Music Mashup," featuring the Princeton University Orchestra, the University Glee Club, Jazz Ensembles, Richardson Chamber Players, as well as alumni including the Carpenter siblings and others in an hour of continuous music ranging from Bartók to Bernstein.
  • On Sunday, Oct. 8, Jim Lee, a 1986 alumnus and comic book artist, writer, editor and publisher of DC Entertainment, will discuss his 30-year career and sketch favorite characters in the Stewart Theater, 185 Nassau St.

Building highlights

The multi-building, 145,000-square-foot complex includes a new home for the Lewis Center for the Arts' programs in dance, music theater, the Princeton Atelier and theater, as well as a new building associated with the Department of Music. These new facilities supplement existing teaching, exhibition and performance spaces on campus, allowing the University to realize its vision of a vibrant campus suffused with the arts. Princeton's arts curriculum also includes programs in creative writing and the visual arts, with dedicated spaces for workshops and studios across the campus.

Highlights of the new complex include:

  • The New Music Building houses the Lee Music Performance and Rehearsal Room, a 3,500-square-foot performance and rehearsal space with soaring 30-foot ceilings, as well as a jazz studies studio and acoustically advanced practice rooms — equipped with dozens of new pianos from Steinway & Sons — and teaching studios.
  • The Wallace Dance Building and Theater features the 3,600-square-foot Hearst Dance Theater and a 3,600-square-foot black box theater with seating for up to 150 in flexible configurations. Each is a two-story performance space with state-of-the-art LED theatrical lighting and recording capabilities. This building also includes several new dance and theater studios.
  • A six-story Arts Tower houses studios, gathering spaces, an art gallery, conference rooms and administrative offices.
  • A 2,000-square-foot acting and performance studio is designed for smaller, more intimate performances.
  • The new buildings are connected at ground level by the Forum, an 8,000-square-foot open indoor gathering space that serves as a lobby for the venues in the complex as well as additional informal performance space. Above the Forum is an outdoor plaza with a reflecting pool; skylights in the pool bring water-filtered light into the Forum.