Connecticut College has received two gifts totaling $20 million for the renovation of Palmer Auditorium and Castle Court into a new and revitalized center for performance and creative research.
Funding will be provided through a $10 million grant from the Sherman Fairchild Foundation and a $10 million gift from Nancy Marshall Athey ’72 and Preston Athey, longtime supporters of the College and its arts programs.
The transformation of the space will promote pioneering artistic production and research, attract world-renowned artists-in-residence, bring together alumni leaders in the arts and offer renewed spaces for community engagement. Central to the project is a historically informed renovation of Palmer Auditorium, the College’s iconic Art Deco theater built in 1939, including a new entrance and a complete façade renewal. The project also envisions opening Castle Court, the space adjacent to the auditorium, into a natural amphitheater and outdoor classroom.
“Our strategic plan recognizes the importance of creative research as fundamental to developing imaginative and engaged citizens of the future,” said Connecticut College President Katherine Bergeron. “We are so grateful to the Sherman Fairchild trustees and to Nancy and Preston for their extraordinary generosity and for making this vision a reality.”
The historic Palmer Auditorium was visionary in its time—a 1,300-seat hall, designed by William Lamb, principal architect of the Empire State Building, built to serve not just the campus but also the surrounding community. Since opening in 1939, it has featured such renowned musicians, dancers and performers as the New York Philharmonic, the Boston Symphony Orchestra, Martha Graham, José Limón, the American Dance Festival, Merce Cunningham, Paul Taylor, Alvin Ailey, Twyla Tharp, the Pilobolus dance company, Dizzy Gillespie, Yo-Yo Ma and many others.
“We are so pleased to play a part in bringing this wonderful project to fruition and to help in the reinvention of a venerable and historic building into a new center for the arts,” said Nancy Marshall Athey. “With this investment, we hope to bring the greater New London community to the campus and to contribute to the College’s continued preeminence in the creative and performing arts.”