Penn announces plans for new student performing arts center

Architectural rendering of site map of proposed performing arts space.
Map of the proposed site for the student performing arts center at 33rd Street and Woodland Walk.

Penn President Amy Gutmann today announced that the University has begun the planning process to build a new student performing arts center at 33rd Street and Woodland Walk, adjacent to Lauder and Hill College Houses and proximate to King’s Court English College House. The University has issued a request for proposal for a feasibility study for the proposed $31-million, 36,000-square-foot center, a project which Gutmann said has been in high demand by the collective undergraduate student body.

“We are thrilled to be undertaking this extraordinarily exciting project at Penn in support of the thousands of students avidly involved in the performing arts and the dozens and dozens of thriving, talented student performing arts groups on campus,” says Gutmann. “This project would augment the incredible resources now serving student-run performance organizations, with Platt Student Performing Arts House providing leadership in the creation and implementation of arts programming for students at Penn.

“The proposed center would serve along with the Platt House, Irvine Auditorium, Houston Hall, Iron Gate Theatre, as well as additional spaces at the ARCH, to create a consortium of spaces for undergraduate students who are making important, imaginative, and innovative strides in theater, dance, instrumental and vocal music, comedy, and spoken word. Responding to the expanding needs of Penn’s vibrant performing arts community, a terrific team has been quietly at work over the last year to discuss and consider this project. We are now excited to share this proposed vision for a new creative space at Penn.”

The proposed new student performing arts center would be entirely student-centered and include a dedicated performing arts space for undergraduate students. The facility also calls for a 450-seat theater and contemporary stage, as well as teaching, rehearsal, and practice space, and back of the house support.

The center’s proposal grew from a study completed in 2019 for the University’s Vice Provost for University Life (VPUL) which concluded that additional performance and rehearsal space was needed to meet current and future demand. The study compiled an assessment of existing performing arts spaces on campus and evaluated utilization data provided by the University’s Performing Arts Council (PAC), which consists of four student councils representing 47 student groups and approximately 1,100 students. In addition to these councils, there are an estimated 30 non-PAC groups.

In response to the study, based on extensive student input, a working group was formed including members representing the President’s Office, Office of the Provost, VPUL, Annenberg Center for the Performing Arts, and the Office of Facilities and Real Estate to move the project forward. The working group is now in the process of reviewing the proposals and conducting architect interviews while continuing to receive student input. Final architect selection and project approval are expected this fall.