Open this winter term for the first time is a three-story glass tower that branches out from the second story of Portland State’s Lincoln Hall on the Broadway side, alive with the art of theater and dance. With glass for walls on the street side, the classes taking place can’t be missed by passersby.
The tower not only completes the 102-year-old Lincoln Hall’s renovations, it exposes the performing arts to the city while providing students in the PSU performing arts program with access to brand new studios and workshops.
“The tower was part of the design when the Lincoln Hall rehab happened,” said Judy Patton, director of theater and film at PSU. “The state funded that project to upgrade HVAC (heating, ventilation and air conditioning) and earthquake safety.
“Because costs dropped during the time, more work was done and the foundation for the tower was constructed. Permits were running out and having to obtain new permits would have escalated the cost, so a big push for funding and support from the university went into finishing the Lincoln Hall project.”
Arlene Schnitzer, one of Portland’s most prominent philanthropists and a promoter of the arts, gifted $2.3 million toward the construction of the building. Schnitzer attended Lincoln High School with her late husband, Harold, before it became home to PSU as Lincoln Hall.
The rest of the funds for this $3.6 million structure were loaned to PSU’s College of the Arts by the university itself. So far, about half has already been repaid.
Devon Allen, head of acting at PSU’s School of Theatre and Film, described just how important the new studio space is to performing arts students.
“Theater uses the whole person—the emotions, the intellect, the spirit, the body. It demands of us that we use our whole selves, which create imaginative and intellectual leaps,” Allen said. “In this way, in class, we are always tested.”
Allen says that there is a big difference between the former space and the new glass tower.
“The [old] room was dank and the lighting very dim, so teaching was sometimes a challenge. It is such a boon to our school to have this facility for the student actors,” Allen said. “We now have ample room to explore the grandeur of character movement, [which is] so important when training actors, and the acoustics help us work on projection, timbre and resonance of the human voice.”
That the new addition is mostly glass allows for a great deal of natural lighting, and the tower has even achieved LEED platinum certification. Allen believes that it’s beneficial to the courses as well.
“The light in the room, from fixtures and nature, inspire and evoke vitality and help us all really see expression and actor choices,” Allen said.
From a student’s perspective, Gwendolyn Daily, a senior in arts and letters with a minor in dance, takes modern dance and ballet in the glass tower dance studio.
“The space is more open and bright—I feel more creatively inspired whenever I am dancing in the studio,” Daily said. “It has a bit of simplicity but also has an energy that makes the same movements feel different than they did in the old studio.
“I think most importantly, it is such a nice space that it makes me feel like the people who funded the glass tower actually care about my dance training and education.”