The Jewett Arts Center: The Modern Campus at Mid-Century & Today

October 21, 2016
Jewett Arts Center

Wellesley welcomes scholars, historians, leading architects, and architectural experts to campus to explore the history and preservation of midcentury modern buildings in a two-day architectural symposium, “The Jewett Arts Center: The Modern Campus at Mid-Century & Today.” The October 21-22 symposium will examine the cultural contexts, design strategies, and future uses of historic modern buildings on American college and university campuses.

Discussion will center on Wellesley’s Jewett Arts Center, a midcentury modern masterpiece in the center of campus, designed by Paul Rudolph and completed in 1958. The building was constructed to break down physical and intellectual barriers to bring art history, studio art, music, theater, and an art museum together in a single building.

When ground was broken for the building in 1956, benefactor Mary Cooper Jewett ’23 explained in article in the Wellesey Alumnae Magazine how the center would promote the College’s mission of service and leadership. She anticipated that students would take their arts training into their communities to inspire others “to become positive individuals, to stimulate the imagination, to develop their personalities, and to know the joy of creation … The broad concept of studying art, music, and drama as integrated arts will enrich the understanding of each and enlarge the practical application of the various combinations of these arts.”

Today, Jewett houses many of Wellesley’s art and music programs, and provides space for art exhibitions, classes, lectures, and performances across disciplines. It continues to serve as a model for interdisciplinary learning spaces, as well as an exquisite example of midcentury modern design.

Wellesley’s two-day symposium begins with a keynote address from Susan Macdonald, head of field projects and director of the Conserving Modern Architecture Initiative at the Getty Conservation Institute. Her talk, “Somewhere between History and Current Events: Conserving Modern Heritage,” will begin at 5:30 pm on Friday, October 21, in the Jewett Auditorium. Macdonald will speak about the conservation issues and challenges presented by Modern architecture and the Getty’s activities to develop best practices in the conservation of 20th-century heritage. A reception will follow at 7 pm.

Saturday’s sessions will take place in Collins Cinema and will include panels on the Jewett Arts Center in the context of national and international efforts to preserve midcentury modern architecture; on the midcentury interest in a “synthesis of the arts”; and on Modern planning and design on college and university campuses.

The symposium is funded by a grant from the Getty Foundation “Keeping it Modern” program and the Mahnaz Ispahani Bartos ’79 Fund of Wellesley College. A registration link and more symposium information, including the full schedule and list of speakers, can be found here. Additional information is also available at The Jewett Arts Center: Yesterday, Today, and Tomorrow.