College of Visual and Performing Arts
George Mason University
George Mason University Mason
George Mason University

Director’s Corner: Permeable boundaries

January 13, 2020

Rick Davis

In working on the design for the new Education and Rehearsal Wing at the Hylton Center (have you seen it yet? A great opportunity is coming up!) we thought a lot about boundaries and how they define our work. Sometimes those boundaries are pretty strict, for reasons like safety and security – when you’re working with students, for example, you want to know exactly who’s in the space and where to find them at all times – and of course there are certain rehearsals that are rightly off limits to anyone but the artists due to the sensitive and vulnerable nature of the creative process. 

We protect those kinds of boundaries diligently, and the design of the Wing allows us to shape and monitor access and flow both within the new space and in how it plays with the existing, much larger, volume of the “original” building. The two can operate completely independently (and simultaneously!), or they can be quite seamlessly integrated, with various stages of “permeability” in between.  The whole design has a sense of openness and invitation to participate in the creative energy that is already coursing through the halls and studios.

This is important because, in the final analysis (and stop me if you’ve heard this before) the arts create community, and the gesture of creating community is the welcoming wave into a new space, not the upturned palm and the locked door. Artists themselves are constantly exploring how to build bridges that link genres, blurring lines between forms and styles, creating new communities as they go.  And every time we invite someone in to experience a new-to-them work of art, as a spectator, student, budding creator, or even (and this is my favorite target audience) a skeptic, we are asking them to feel welcome in a slightly stranger space than they might be used to. That’s how an art form – and I would say a society – grows.

Enabling this kind of invitation was a key criterion in the design process for the Wing, and it is thrilling to see what smart architects, talented university facilities staff, and your Hylton Center team were able to create in meeting that standard.  As you experience the Wing in its various guises – as a performance venue, a rehearsal space, a workshop host, a place to attend lectures and classes and take music lessons, and as a simply magnificent gathering ground for the kind of special events that we’ve only been able to dream about until now – I think you’ll see what I mean about entering new communities, crossing those permeable boundaries, and expanding our mutual sense of possibility.  Welcome to the adventure!

Rick Davis
Dean and Executive Director

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