By Christopher Brooks
For the first time in 39 years, the 23-acre campus of Westminster Choir College (WCC) will open a newly constructed building.
Commemorating a $5 million bequest, the Marion Buckelew Cullen Center will officially open with a formal ribbon-cutting ceremony on Oct. 22 at 11:30 a.m. Additional funding for the $8.5 million project was largely contributed by New Jersey’s “Building Our Future” bond program and a wide array of pledges, gifts and grants.
Better known as the Cullen Center, the 12,000-square-foot building’s key feature is the Hillman Performance Hall, named after the Henry L. Hillman Foundation, which contributed a $3 million grant.
The 3,000-square-foot space can seat over 200 students with ample capacity for rehearsal and performance, along with moveable curtains to change acoustic features of the room. The hall is also equipped with two drop-down screens and projectors.
Amanda Quist, assistant professor of conducting, is thrilled to have access to the “world-class” space.
“The Cullen Center is a wonderful new addition to our thriving campus,” she said. “With such an active campus, we were desperately in need of more spaces in which to rehearse. This new hall has been designed with the very best acousticians in the business, and it allows for a variety of choices for rehearsal configurations. Few college campuses in the country have a space as fantastic as this.”
In addition to the Hillman Performance Hall, the Cullen Center contains two 45-student classrooms for various academic and choral uses, a seminar room, a green room and a lobby with a ticket booth. It is Rider’s third LEED-certified building.
The building, which is attached to the Playhouse, will also create a new outdoor quadrangle that WCC hopes to use for future outdoor student and alumni events, according to Director of External Affairs Anne Sears.
Construction of the Cullen Center began in July 2013, and it was polished and ready for students at the beginning of this semester. Though the bitter winter halted construction at points, the building was finished on schedule, according to Mike Reca, associate vice president of facilities.
“The construction of the Cullen Center was completed on time and exemplified the spirit of true teamwork,” Reca said. “The collaboration both externally and internally proved to be the key for this projects’ successful completion.”
To celebrate the opening of the Cullen Center, WCC will be holding an open house on campus on Oct. 26 from 1 to 5 p.m. Admission to the event is free and open to the community.
The open house will include a wide variety of performances by different ensembles, students and faculty. WCC will be presenting visitors with “Meet the Instruments,” an activity designed to teach more about the music they will hear on campus.
The dean and director of Westminster College of the Arts, Robert L. Annis, feels that the addition of the Cullen Center was a paramount improvement to the campus.
“The first new building to be constructed on the Westminster campus in 39 years, the Marion Buckelew Cullen Center was very much needed,” he said. “More than 45 classes are held in its classrooms each week. We’re very pleased with the opportunities that the Hillman Performance Hall offers for rehearsals and performances and especially the capability it offers to bring Westminster to the world through technology.”
To learn more about the Cullen Center open house visit: www.rider.edu/cullen.