Bringing Brock off the hill: the Marilyn I. Walker School of Fine and Performing Arts

This upcoming semester will see the realization of a dream for many Brock students, faculty and staff as the university takes a big leap toward accomplishing its goal of integration within the St. Catharines community. The 2015-2016 academic year marks Brock’s historic move down the hill with the newly constructed Marilyn I. Walker School of Fine and Performing Arts right in the heart of downtown St. Catharines.

At approximately five kilometers from Brock University’s main campus, the total relocation of four unique academic departments was no easy matter. It was a finely tuned process that required a lot of planning and co-ordination according to Derek Knight, Director of MIWSFPA (Marilyn I. Walker School of Fine and Performing Arts).

MIWSFPA (1)

“The packing and moving of faculty and staff offices and tons of specialized equipment (from wardrobe to props, lighting instruments to computerized boards, band saws to easels, upright pianos to sound-proofed prebuilt Wenger practice modules), was a delicate and highly logistical operation that took several days to complete. Well orchestrated by our Facilities Management team, everything had to find its designated place in our new building,” said Knight.

Several students that would soon make the MIWSFPA their primary campus were also present to help with the move, one of which was Andrea Nolan, a fourth-year music student.

“I was involved in the score-packing process,” said Nolan, “A few fellow music students and I had to pack scores in individual envelopes and box them up. The whole process took days and on most days we’d spend up to eight hours packing, but it was all worth it just knowing that we were taking part in such a historic move.”

There are between 450 and 500 students anticipated to major in Dramatic Arts, Music, Visual Arts and Studies in Arts and Culture, the departments which will operate out of the new downtown campus.

“Attending the new campus next year will be incredibly rewarding,” said Nolan. “Music students are used to spending every day in one very small hallway. Now we get a whole wing of a building all to ourselves. I’m sure the new building will enrich all our learning experiences and further the growth between Brock artists and the art scene in downtown St. Catharines.”

The 95,000 square foot facility itself is well-equipped and designed with the uniqueness of each department in mind. The amenities included in the new campus range from a room with a large green-screen and professional audio recording equipment, a darkroom for analog photography, to percussion and instrumental recording rooms, dance studios and a custom auditorium, just to name a few.

“It is beautifully and functionally designed,” said Knight, “with care and attention paid to architectural detail as well as the many unique instructional needs that typify fine and performing arts pedagogy. We are still in the process of equipping some of the more specialized teaching spaces with electronic or computerized gear, but come September 9, the first day of classes, these will be up and ready to go.”

Unfortunately for Badgers hoping to drive and park at the downtown campus, the parking lots are reserved for faculty and staff, with only a few paid spots for visitor parking.

“We recommend that students and others who have cars use the Carlisle Street parkade, only five minutes walk away, where hourly rates apply, or monthly or seasonal passes can be purchased,” said Knight. “The City [of St. Catharines] is completing a 24-space parking lot immediately to the west of our building. It will come on stream in September and will be a “pay and display” lot open to the public. Other options are being reviewed by the City and may see the introduction of “pay and display” parking at the new Meridian Centre.”

While the need and practicality of adding new bus stops to make it easier for students commuting between campuses “has yet to be determined”, there are regular bus routes between the downtown bus terminal and the main Brock campus. For Badgers looking to get downtown to the campus, more information on bus routes and times is available at yourbus.com.

After years of planning, zoning, construction and moving, Knight concluded, “We can’t wait to welcome students.”

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