Date October 20, 2023
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Celebrating the arts at Brown: Sights, sounds and stories from The Lindemann’s opening weekend

Packed with building tours, family activities, a ribbon-cutting and the center’s inaugural public performance, the weekend offered countless opportunities for community members to celebrate the arts at Brown.

PROVIDENCE, R.I. [Brown University] — To kick off a yearlong celebration of the arts and commemorate the official opening of its new, one-of-a-kind Lindemann Performing Arts Center, Brown University hosted a wide range of events including a full day of public festivities on Saturday, Oct. 21.

With Brown’s planning for a new performing arts center dating back years, the debut of The Lindemann has been a long time in the making — and the result is a truly unique, radically flexible new center for performance and artistic experimentation designed by REX architecture and located in Brown’s Perelman Arts District.

All of that makes for a major celebration. Festivities ranged from a block party to building tours, and Saturday culminated with the center’s inaugural public concert featuring renowned violinist Itzhak Perlman, who performed with the Brown University Orchestra and Brown University Chorus.

Here, Brown's communications team highlighted the wealth of activities happening and shared sights, sounds and stories from throughout the weekend.

Video highlights from the opening weekend

From an arts forum and building tours, to a rainy-but-spirited block party and an inaugural public concert, the opening weekend for the Lindemann Performing Arts Center offered a robust celebration of the arts at Brown. Highlights are here courtesy of video producer Oliver Scampoli.

Riveting concert lights the way forward in one-of-a-kind performance hall

As the rain drove down, hundreds of people made their way into the warm glow of The Lindemann Performing Arts Center on Saturday night, nestling into the sleek and cozy black-walled concert hall for the venue’s inaugural public performance.

All 500-plus theater seats were full for the free concert, which featured the Brown University Orchestra, the Brown University Chorus, members of the Providence Singers, solo vocalists and violin virtuoso Itzhak Perlman.

After years of careful planning and construction, the moment had arrived to inaugurate The Lindemann, said Brown President Christina H. Paxson during welcome remarks.

“Many, many people have worked on it, contributed to it and dreamed about it — and just being here for the inaugural public performance is fantastic,” Paxson said. “One of the bedrock principles as we were designing and laying out and thinking about this building is that it would be large enough to accommodate our great University orchestra and our chorus, so it’s fitting to have these groups here.”

The inaugural concert before a lively audience featured the world premiere of “Open again a turn of light,” by Brown faculty Eric Nathan and Sawako Nakayasu; a performance of “Kauyumari” by composer Gabriela Ortiz; and Max Bruch’s “Violin Concerto No. 1 in G Minor” with violin soloist Itzhak Perlman — all led by Brown University Orchestra Conductor Mark Seto.

“One of the most important aspects of this space is it can be a locus for collaboration,” Seto said as he introduced the concert’s grand finale, Ludwig van Beethoven’s unmistakable “Symphony No. 9 in D Minor.”

“Few pieces of music capture the totality of the human experience as powerfully as Beethoven’s ninth Symphony,” Seto said. “This is a piece which begins in darkness, uncertainty and turmoil. But it ends with a radiant and jubilant celebration of our shared humanity.

“We hope that tonight will be the first time of many that we can use arts to light our way forward in this space.”

Itzhak Perlman inaugurates The Lindemann with magical performance

Internationally renowned violinist Itzhak Perlman has performed with major orchestras at the world’s preeminent concert halls. He has marked moments in history with his music — including President Barack Obama’s inauguration and Queen Elizabeth II’s state dinner at the White House — and he has performed alongside many of the world’s other great musicians, like cellist Yo-Yo Ma.

On Saturday night, on Brown’s campus, Perlman graced a rapt Providence audience with his talent as he performed for a full house in the University’s Lindemann Performing Arts Center — as the soloist for the second of four pieces performed during the building’s inaugural public concert.

During brief introductory remarks, Navah Perlman Frost, Perlman’s daughter and a member of Brown’s Class of 1992, nodded to her father’s many accolades and offered a moment of levity before his performance.

“While I am privileged to call him my father, I grew up thinking of him as a regular dad,” Perlman Frost said. “In fact, it was reported to me that when I was in first grade, my classmates and I were talking about what our parents did for work.

“Only ever seeing my father when he was at home and not working, I proudly said, ‘My father watches TV,’” she quipped, as the audience laughed and applauded.

Following his daughter’s humorous and sweetly humbling introduction, the Grammy and Emmy Award-winning musician joined the Brown University Orchestra on stage and dazzled concertgoers during the ensemble’s 25-minute performance of composer Max Bruch’s “Violin Concerto No. 1 in G Minor.”

Swept up by the performance and the energy in the hall, audience members rose to their feet and gave a roaring, 2-minute standing ovation following Perlman’s debut performance in the brand-new performance space.

Sandhya Shukla, whose son Kiran Klubock-Shukla is a Brown University junior and a violinist with the Brown Orchestra, traveled to Providence from Charlottesville, Virginia, with her husband and 13-year-old son to witness history. Not only was her son getting a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to perform with Perlman at the brand new arts venue — it was also his chance to fulfill a dream of performing “Symphony No. 9 in D Minor” by Ludwig van Beethoven, with a full orchestra.

“It was so moving,” Shukla beamed as the house lights went on at the end of the concert.

Collaboration in concert

On a warm night in late July, Associate Professor of Music Eric Nathan walked by the soon-to-open Lindemann Performing Arts Center and saw something beautiful.

“The way the light illuminates the trees on the street creates a shadow on the side of the building,” he observed. “So when there’s a breeze, you can see all the leaves making these moving shadows.” 

The moment felt like kismet. At the time, Nathan was putting the finishing touches on “Open again a turn of light,” an original piece that premiered on Saturday, Oct. 21, at The Lindemann’s public opening concert. And he happened to have just composed a passage that called on the musicians to make improvised rustling and fluttering sounds that sweep from one side of the stage to the other — creating an effect that’s reminiscent of a breeze passing through trees.

The opportunity to create such site-specific music is rare, Nathan said: “It is not that often you get asked to write a piece to open a new concert hall because, well, that doesn't happen very often!”

The composer said he often turned to The Lindemann itself for creative inspiration, walking by the building and taking pictures of the aluminum rainscreen’s changing colors throughout the day. 

But the idea for Nathan’s musical breeze came from another source: Assistant Professor of Literary Arts Sawako Nakayasu, whose poetry served as the text in “Open again a turn of light.”

“In Sawako’s middle stanza, which I found so beautiful, there’s this playfulness in how the words repeat and align with each other,” Nathan said. “It looked to me like wind, or a wave, or a breeze of words.” 

Nathan believes that moment in the composition process is a testament to the importance of collaborating across disciplines.

“Had I not had Sawako’s text,” he said, “I would not have found new directions for my work. I feel like it broadened my artistic voice.”

An intimate performance hall

Carnegie Hall: 3,761 seats. Sydney Opera House: 2,679 seats. La Scala: 1,800 seats.

With capacities like these at such renowned venues, it’s easy to think that when it comes to performance halls, bigger is better. But Mark Seto thinks otherwise.

Seto, the conductor of the Brown University Orchestra and a senior lecturer in music, said one of his favorite features of The Lindemann’s main performance hall is its scale.

“With only about 530 seats, there is a real intimacy to the space that is uncommon for a venue that can accommodate a full orchestra and chorus,” Seto said. “It’s one distinctive aspect of the hall that hasn’t gotten as much attention as its other features.”

Over the last nine months leading up to Saturday’s inaugural public performance, Seto has stepped to the podium inside the main performance hall to lead student musicians in rehearsal. He also spent time listening to the orchestra’s sound from various seats in the audience to observe how the sound carries. From his perspective, there’s not a single bad seat in the house, thanks to the smaller scale of the space.

“Even from the last row in the house,” he said, “I think audience members will feel a real personal connection to the performers on stage.”

That proved to be the case on Saturday night, as Seto successfully and resoundingly led the orchestra through pieces ranging from Beethoven in the 1820s, to Bruch in the late 19th century, to the world premiere of “Open again a turn of light,” written and composted in recent months by two Brown faculty members.

Providence Singers join Brown for inaugural Lindemann performance

As a bass in the Providence Singers, Terry Karaniuk has had the opportunity to perform in some of Rhode Island’s largest and most beloved music venues: the Veterans Memorial Auditorium, the WaterFire Arts Center and the 145-year-old Cathedral of Saints Peter and Paul, to name just a few.

When Karaniuk read a recent Providence Journal article about plans for the new Lindemann Performing Arts Center at Brown, he hoped to add the venue to the list someday.

“I was wondering when I would have a chance to see it and possibly perform there,” he recalled.Providence Singers

Karaniuk didn’t have to wait long: Frederick Jodry, director of the Brown University Chorus and a distinguished senior lecturer in music, reached out to the Providence Singers to invite members to join the chorus for The Lindemann’s inaugural public performance on Oct. 21. After all, Jodry said, The Lindemann is intended as a resource for the greater Rhode Island community in addition to its role as a teaching and learning hub for the University community.

Twenty members of the community group signed on — including Karaniuk, who performed the world premiere of “Open again a turn of light” and Beethoven’s “Finale to Symphony No. 9 in D Minor” with fellow vocalists during Saturday night’s concert.

“Working with the Brown Chorus and Orchestra has been a great experience,” he said. “They are wonderful musicians, and I love the energy they bring to the music.”

The experience also provided Karaniuk the novel opportunity to explore The Lindemann’s transformable main performance hall, light-filled lobby and other unique spaces.

“The concert hall is amazing,” he said. “I love how they can adjust the acoustics as needed. I don’t think there is any other concert hall in Rhode Island like it.”

For local community members, a look inside The Lindemann

Eager to tour the one-of-a-kind Lindemann Performing Arts Center, Providence resident Julia Carlson was among many local community members who joined the weekend celebrations.

“We’ve been watching them build this for the last seven years,” Carlson said. “We are big supporters of the arts and just can’t wait to come to a show and enjoy having this right in our backyard.”

Carlson was one of more than 100 students, alumni, faculty, staff and community members who lined up for the opportunity to tour the 101,000-square-foot performing arts center. In small groups, guests walked first through the Nelson Atwater Lobby and its “Infinite Composition” sculpture, a site-specific, three-dimensional light work designed by award-winning artist Leo Villareal. Groups then learned about the five radically different configurations for the main performance hall and walked through two rehearsal level spaces, the William Riley Hall and the Performance Lab.

For most, the tour was their first time in the new performing arts center. Carlson was impressed by The Lindemann’s transparent glass “clearstory,” which slices through the middle of the building.

“I love the architecture,” she said. “It brings the outdoors in, which I think is really beautiful, and it’s like an art piece in itself.”

Beyond the building’s unique design, however, Carlson is excited the performance venue will expand upon the city’s art and culture scene.

“I am a big proponent for making the arts open to everybody,” she said. “I love that Brown is bringing more exposure and opening up with these public events so that people can experience the different types of art — it’s very exciting; I’m hoping they bring opera!”

In addition to tours of the building itself, the Brown Arts Institute offered guided tours of Brown’s public art collection across campus and two galleries featuring installations from a Carrie Mae Weems’ exhibition titled “Varying Shades of Brown.”

Looking back and looking forward

At a forum titled “Looking Back / Looking Forward: A Brief History of the Arts at Brown,” Avery Willis Hoffman, artistic director of the Brown Arts Institute, led a panel discussion featuring three faculty members who played vital roles in that history, each of whom offered perspectives and insights into key moments.

Richard Fishman, a professor emeritus and director of Brown’s Creative Arts Council, and Julie Strandberg, a professor emerita and founding director of Brown’s dance program, brought the audience back to the late 1960s at Brown when the arts were scattered, throughout campus in different departments and spaces. Each detailed different ways people thought about the arts at Brown through the years and how that has evolved. They also described different types of performances students have done through the decades in dance, music and theatre.

The goal has always included making Brown a major destination point for the arts in higher education, Fishman described. With the launch of The Lindemann, “look how close we are to that,” he said.

Butch Rovan, a music professor and prior faculty director of the Brown Arts Initiative, spoke about the years leading up to the opening of the new building, including juggling artistic programming and education while making sure The Lindemann would meet the needs of the entire artistic community at Brown, which serves about 1,500 students each year. Rovan earned a number of “wows” and gasps from the crowd when he showed a video of how the Sharpe House was relocated.

Now that the building is here and is open, Rovan says the energy around it is unmatched. “There’s a huge amount of interest and creative energy that’s just waiting to explode,” Rovan said.

The show (and the block party) must go on

Channeling their inner Fanny Brice, the scores of Brown students and other community members who attended the weekend’s opening block party for The Lindemann weren’t going to let anything rain on their parade — especially not the weather.

Take Denish Gunawan, a graduate student at Brown’s School of Public Health, who donned a slick green suit to attend the festivities. Gunawan had circled the date on his calendar long ago and wasn’t going to let the torrential downpours stop him from getting a firsthand look at the new space and enjoy the performances throughout the day and night.

“The show must go on,” said Gunawan, who was especially excited for the inaugural public performance in The Lindemann on Saturday evening, which would mark his first time seeing a live orchestra performance.

That same energy was channeled by many of the student performers at the block party as well as the audience watching them. Daebak, a K-pop dance group, pumped up the crowd near the steps of The Lindemann with a vibrant and high-energy performance that erupted spurts of loud cheers. Em’s Femmes, an all-femme funk and jazz student band, bewitched the crowd in a nearby tent with an enchanting jazz cover of “I Put a Spell on You.”

Throughout the block party, enticing whiffs of empanadas, fish and chips, and some Instagram-worthy churros filled Angell Street from food trucks from the local area that were stationed there. Waiting for churros were sophomores Lily Yu and Erica Sahin, who were at The Lindemann both as performers and to celebrate their love of the arts at Brown and the new space for it.

“Arts is a way of expressing yourself,” Yu said. “It's a great way to balance our very demanding academic curriculum, and having a lot of arts space — like this one — makes it convenient in our busy schedules.”

It’s a new building definitely worth celebrating, Sahin added.

Immersive arts installations captivate community members at block party

As an art teacher at Pleasant View Elementary School in Providence, Robert Boerner enjoys any opportunity to support and engage with the local arts community. So he and his wife, Anne, joined The Lindemann's opening celebration block party, albeit with an umbrella in tow.

"We like to see what's happening in the community," the Providence resident said.

Arriving in Brown’s Perelman Arts District, the couple first stepped into the MAGIC CAR WASH, one of many interactive installations featured adjacent to The Lindemann Performing Arts Center and the Granoff Center for Creative Arts.

The multi-sensory experience, hosted as a mini-theater out of the back of a box truck, immerses viewers in the mesmerizing feeling of being in a car going through a car wash. Saturday's rain added a new, surprising layer of texture to the 8-minute musical journey, said M.J. Robinson, a local illustrator, cartoonist and artist who is part of an art band called Portal Rental that created the mobile installation.

Boerner considers The Lindemann a fantastic asset for the local community and hopes more artists and lovers of the arts opt to participate in its public programming: "I think a lot of residents of Providence don't take advantage of the resources we have right here in the city," he said.

Boerner said he suggested to the Brown Arts Institute team the possibility of creating an exhibit of student artwork from Pleasant View Elementary to be featured on campus. His idea is that an installation like that would motivate even more parents and community members to engage with local arts.

"How do you get local people into a museum or a gallery space?" Boerner asked. "You put their kids' art in it. That's my idea, and I think it could work."

Other arts installations featured at Brown’s weekend celebration included “Compound Camera,” an inflatable sculpture by Pneuhaus. The immersive dome is made of 109 inflatable pinhole cameras that each cast a live projection of the surrounding environment. Together, they create a stunning tessellated panorama likened to standing inside the eye of a fly.

World-class building, world-class university, world-class city

Mayor Brett P. Smiley was among the Providence community members who joined Brown leaders to officially open The Lindemann Performing Arts Center, noting how the building supports his goal is to make Providence a world-class destination city.

“We’re in the heart of an already world-class institution, in a building designed by a world-class architect, Joshua Ramus,” Smiley said, “and ready to take full advantage of an already world-class arts and culture scene here in the City of Providence to have it all come together in a building where there is an overt commitment to opening up to the broader community.

“This is a real delight for me and for everyone in city government... We are grateful for Brown's presence in our community and for this new building.”

Smiley thanked everyone involved in making the center possible, including the thousands of building trades professionals who dedicated their time and talents over the last five years to the planning, design and construction of state-of-the-art facility. Brown hosted those construction laborers for a ceremony at the building last month, the mayor noted.

“I can't tell you how many members of the building trades have come up to me since then to say: ‘You know what? We never get to see the fruits of our labor. We're never invited in afterwards,’” Smiley said. “Such an extraordinary commitment — Brown cares about the people who build this great city. And so this is an exciting day to cut the ribbon on this dynamic building.”

A creative destination for the arts

Even a cutting-edge new building isn’t complete without an old-fashioned ribbon-cutting.

Hundreds of community members braved the elements as torrential rains enabled Brown to test the capabilities of the tribune, an outdoor space below The Lindemann’s lobby, protected from the skies. And Brown Arts Institute Artistic Director Avery Willis Hoffman, Providence Mayor Brett P. Smiley and University President Christina H. Paxson made the building’s opening official.

“This is an incredible, state-of-the-art building, and it’s clear The Lindemann is going to make Brown a place where world-class artists, scholars, people who love the arts — they're going to want to come here,” Paxson said.

The performing arts center is more than just a building, she noted — it’s a work of art in its own right, reflecting the creativity and expression that will take place inside.

“I believe that The Lindemann fits perfectly at Brown, and it fits perfectly in Providence, which is the creative capital,” Paxson said. “This city is home to so many amazing artists and we look forward to welcoming many of them into The Lindemann at Brown in the years to come. We want this to be a catalyst for making Providence an even more creative destination for the arts here right now. “

Speaking to the many local community members who braved the rain for the opening celebration, Paxson encouraged them to return to the building routinely.

“This is your place as much as it's our place,” she said. “Come see a performance, come see an art exhibition, come to perform, to share with us. We really want the Providence community to be a part of this shared experience. Please come and enjoy the artistic innovation happening here, not just today, but for years to come.”

In that spirit, Paxson cut the ribbon, and the first of dozens of building tours throughout the afternoon welcomed community members into the new space.

A home for performance and experimentation, above and below ground

At 75 feet tall, the Lindemann Performing Arts Center soars upward, its fluted aluminum exterior seeming to disappear into the atmosphere. Yet, what passersby can’t see are the vast below-grade spaces, including a black box theater, a movement lab, rehearsal spaces, dressing rooms and William Riley Hall, a multipurpose venue for rehearsals and musical ensemble performances.

It’s exceedingly rare to combine different types of performance spaces in a single building, explained The Lindemann’s lead architect, Joshua Ramus, founding principal of the firm REX.

Joined by Brown University Architect Craig Barton and Avery Willis Hoffman, artistic director of the Brown Arts Institute, Ramus shared insights on building for the arts — and specifically, Brown’s new one-of-kind performing arts venue — during a Friday afternoon forum on campus.

During the design process, the team worked through limitations including the project’s small footprint, Ramus recalled. They concluded that the relatively modest size of the University and the City of Providence didn’t necessarily call for an orchestra space that could accommodate thousands of seats. What the building did need, Ramus said, was literal and figurative spaces for artists to create.

“The idea was that this was a space not just to perform but to workshop, to have students — and really anyone in the University ecosystem — engage in the creation of art,” Ramus said.

By expanding the building several stories upwards, the main hall still has the capacity to accommodate an orchestra and a chorus, he said — a fact brought to life during this weekend’s inaugural performances. And below ground, a wide variety of spaces are already enabling Brown and community artists to experiment, rehearse and practice.

“You start to realize that there are certain things that you assume are impossible, but actually are totally possible,” Ramus said. “It was just a matter of recognizing the opportunity in this particular challenge.”

Experimenting with acoustics, from floor to balcony

Brown sophomore Ziqi Fang knows The Lindemann’s main performance hall better than most.

In the months ahead of the building’s opening, Fang participated in “tuning events” inside the hall — recurring opportunities for artists, technicians and audiences alike to get to know the space’s acoustics and adjustable features. A double-concentrator in computer science and music, Fang performed as a vocal soloist alongside the Brown University Orchestra at one spring tuning event.

“Many of the audience members mentioned that my sound resonates so well in the space and carries all the way to the back of the audience,” Fang said — a welcome contrast to larger, more echoey spaces where he has performed before. 

In recent weeks this fall, Fang has gotten to know the acoustics as both a singer and a violinist: At the inaugural public performance for The Lindemann on Oct. 21, he’ll perform two pieces from the stage floor with the Brown University Orchestra and two pieces the balcony with the Brown University Chorus

Fang said that in rehearsals, he’s observed that he and other orchestra members “get to hear ourselves and the other sections more distinctly in the new hall, which has been very helpful in adjusting and making changes in my playing based on what I’m hearing.” As a singer, too, Fang has noticed that the chorus now has the ability to adjust its volume and resonance thanks to The Lindemann’s unique adjustable ceiling tiles.

That’s made preparation for the premiere of “Open again a turn of light,” composed jointly by two Brown faculty members, very exciting, Fang said.

“There are surprising and unexpected elements in the music that we get to experiment with, such as creating a wave [of sound] that ripples through the chorus,” Fang said. “Together with all the different layers of textures of the orchestra, the piece is so rich, with some parts that are soft and delicate, and others powerful and majestic.”

Prepping a collaborative exhibition, with Carrie Mae Weems

f I Ruled The World, 2006
"If I Ruled The World," 2006. Vinyl print. Courtesy of the artist and Jack Shainman Gallery, New York.

To some, the weekend’s jam-packed schedule of performances, tours and events celebrating The Lindemann may feel like a culmination of years of anticipation. But for the Brown Arts Institute, they are more a new beginning: They mark the kickoff of IGNITE, BAI’s multi-year lineup of events, exhibitions and artist residencies. 

In preparation for IGNITE, BAI brought esteemed artist Carrie Mae Weems to Brown to teach an Artist@Work course last spring. Perhaps best known for her photographic “Kitchen Table Series,” which reflects her everyday experiences as a Black woman, Weems worked alongside Brown students to research the history of violence in the U.S. and develop a multi-site exhibition on the topic titled “Varying Shades of Brown.”

Parts of the collaborative exhibition are already on view at the Granoff Center for the Creative Arts and the David Winton Bell Gallery. In November, the project’s two final installations will debut inside The Lindemann.

Titled “Cyclorama: The Shape of Things, A Video in 7 Parts,” the forthcoming installation in The Lindemann’s main performance hall is a 40-minute cylindrical video work that acts as a collage of Weems’ visual archive over the previous decade. Weems edited together new and found footage from moments of protest, action and resistance to white supremacy, and combined it with lingering, loving imagery that evokes Black joy, weaving everything together with skillful narration.

Carrie Mae Weems
Carrie Mae Weems. Photo by Rolex, Audoin Desforges.

Meanwhile, Weems’ “Seat or Stand and Speak” will span the Attanasio Family Promenade inside the building. The installation will invite viewers to sit on unpainted plywood in the shape of a chair and box for quiet contemplation — or step up to a wooden megaphone, to voice observations, critiques or celebrations.

“For nearly four decades, the prodigious Carrie Mae Weems has courageously deployed multiple disciplinary approaches to ask hard questions and demand that we confront our biases, our fears and our weaknesses as a nation and as an ever-divided people,” said Avery Willis Hoffman, BAI’s artistic director. “We invited Weems to consider for the first time a University’s campus as a broad canvas, as a resource for deeper thinking, and as an activation site that invited reflection and response. We are thrilled to host ‘Varying Shades of Brown’ as the first project to launch our inaugural year of programming in The Lindemann.”

Public tours of the pieces on view at the Granoff Center and Bell Gallery will take place on Saturday at 1:15 pm, and all “Varying Shades of Brown” exhibitions are on view through Sunday, Dec. 3. Information and tickets are available on the Brown Arts Institute website.

Pushing the boundaries of innovation

The Lindemann Performing Arts Center is a radical, one-of-a-kind venue that pushes the boundaries of innovation in performance space. Designing, engineering, constructing and tuning the center was a feat accomplished with the help of partners and professionals across numerous disciplines.

This time-lapse video, by Udris Film, documents The Lindemann’s transformational nature: Viewers can watch as the main hall moves through unique manual and automated operations above and below the stage to achieve five primary configurations: an immersive experimental media cube; recital hall; end-stage theater; concert hall for orchestra and choir; and a large flat floor for concerts and events.

As the opening celebration arrived, Brown Arts Institute leaders said that thanks to the minds and hands that built this unprecedented space, The Lindemann will inspire new forms of art-making and artistic collaborations at Brown University and beyond for generations to come.