The Lewis Center for the Arts

Friday, Jan 25, 2013

The Lewis Center for the Arts, now celebrating its fifth anniversary, was founded on the principle that exposure to the arts, and particularly to the experience of making art, is fundamental  to understanding ourselves and the world around us. Like other areas of research at Princeton University, the making of art regularly requires students to demonstrate creativity, empathy, critical thinking, the articulation and execution of ideas, team work, and cross-cultural understanding . The center is the umbrella organization for Princeton's courses and certificate programs in the arts, specifically its programs in creative writing, dance, theater, and visual arts. The center also houses the Princeton Atelier, a unique seminar program that brings teams of professional artists to Princeton to work collaboratively with one another and with students to create new work and explore new artistic ground.

Roll! is an original, evening-length physical theater piece that combines text, stylized choreography, music, and video projection. It was presented by the Lewis Center for the Arts in Spring 2012. Photo by Arjun Jain.Through its many programs, the center supports the research of faculty and guest artists, the creation of new work, and the education of undergraduates. Princeton students are encouraged to integrate arts courses into their studies no matter what their area of concentration. For example, students might combine English and engineering, chemistry and comparative literature, or physics and politics to produce works of art in addition to or integrated with their major course of study.

The fruits of research in the arts can take many forms: a new collection of poems, a new play, a new piece of choreography, a new take on a classic theatrical work, artwork that combines new media and technologies in innovative ways, and discoveries about how work from the past was created and how we might interpret it today. On this last note, the Lewis Center often works with colleagues from other departments to assist them in their scholarly work. For example, after Professor of Music Simon Morrison rediscovered a never-performed score by Sergei Prokofiev composed for a 1930s avant-garde adaptation of the Pushkin classic Eugene Onegin, he worked with Caryl Emerson, the A. Watson Armour III University Professor of Slavic Languages and Literatures; Tim Vasen, acting director of the Program in Theater; Rebecca Lazier, senior lecturer in Dance; the Princeton Symphony Orchestra; and a large cohort of student musicians, dancers, actors and designers  to stage two versions of the rediscovered work.

To house Princeton's rapidly growing creative and performing arts endeavors, the University has embarked on the creation of a campus arts complex. Designed by world-renowned architect Stephen Holl, the complex will feature new classrooms, rehearsal rooms, work spaces and several new performance spaces for the use of the Lewis Center and the Department of Music.  These new buildings, totaling 139,000 square feet, will embody Princeton’s commitment to the arts and further promote the integration of the arts and scholarly endeavors on campus. As a side note, two of the new performance spaces will feature lighting that uses energy-efficient LEDs instead of incandescent lights, making Princeton among the first performing arts centers to commit to this new technology.  

"As our new Program for Fellows in the Creative and Performing Arts, funded in part by the Mellon Foundation, makes clear," explains Michael Cadden, chair of the Lewis Center and a senior lecturer in theater, "Princeton is a university committed to all areas of research in the arts, from the work that will be developed by the emerging artists who will grace these positions to the masterpieces of our senior faculty in the arts. Traditionally — and quite appropriately — academics have been recognized for their scholarly work on art works from the past and the present. It's lovely to invite a full range of practitioners to join us at the table."

The Lewis Center for the Arts was established in 2007 and is named in honor of Peter B. Lewis of the Princeton Class of 1955. A Charter Trustee of the University, Mr. Lewis is Chairman of the Board of the Progressive Corporation.