It was a fittingly innovative celebration for a performing arts center that, upon completion, will defy convention. The PAC’s design, revealed by Brown and acclaimed architecture firm REX in February 2019, features a state-of-the-art main performance hall that can transform into any of five vastly different stage and audience configurations — ranging from a 625-seat symphony orchestra hall, to a 250-seat proscenium theater, to an immersive surround-sound cube for experimental media performance.
Beyond the main hall, a suite of modern studios, rehearsal spaces and intimate performance venues will serve as everyday academic resources for students and faculty. Custom-designed for theater, music and dance, the spaces aim to inspire generations of performing artists to create cutting-edge, original artwork and to re-examine well-known works, practices and traditions.
The University’s continued investment in the PAC — and all of the opportunities it will ultimately enable for artists — in the midst of the pandemic’s economic impact is a testament to its strong commitment to the arts, said Avery Willis Hoffman, the inaugural artistic director of the Brown Arts Initiative.
“At a time when the arts industry has been dealt a particularly crushing blow, this building and all that it represents brings us great hope and great opportunity — opportunity to support our students, our faculty, our communities of artists, apprentices and technicians, as well as the broader artistic ecosystem, which provides us essential uplift, solidarity and catharsis, fresh perspectives, tools for survival or radical transformation,” Hoffman said.
The center has signaled hope and opportunity in the construction sector, too, said Michael Sabitoni, president of the Rhode Island Building and Construction Trades Council. In a year when many major construction projects have been canceled or paused, leaving laborers in the lurch, the massive tower crane perched on the PAC site has remained among the most striking elements on the Providence skyline, illuminated at night and visible from miles around.
Sabitoni said he and his colleagues are grateful to leaders at Brown and Shawmut for finding healthy, safe and innovative ways to continue work on the PAC. Since mid-March, crew members have stayed safe by completing daily health questionnaires and on-site temperature checks, wearing personal protective equipment provided by Shawmut and maintaining 6 feet of distance between one another.
“It’s been difficult working through the pandemic, but I have to say... with the commitment of companies such as Shawmut and teams such as Facilities Management at Brown, we’ve been able to meet these challenges,” Sabitoni said. “They do everything humanly possible to ensure the men and women who are out on the ground are provided with every single absolute necessity to maintain safety, distancing and sanitization.”