In celebration of Centre College’s 200th anniversary, a new exhibit, on display at The Norton Center for the Arts, explores the building’s distinct design and its relationship to architectural pioneers Frank Lloyd Wright and William Wesley Peters. The Wright Angle exhibit examines how Centre partnered with the Taliesin Foundation, one of the 20th century’s most acclaimed architectural firms, to build its world-class performing arts center in a small central Kentucky town. The public exhibit is open from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m., Monday through Friday and when there are events in Newlin Hall through mid-December.
“The Wright Angle exhibition is really a tribute to the Norton Center for the Arts building,” said Steve Hoffman, executive director for the Norton Center. “It’s one of the most recognizable buildings on campus, utilized by students, faculty and staff, Danville residents, youth from around the region and the general public from the Bluegrass region of our state.
“And not many of these patrons know much about why this piece of architecture—which does not match anything else on this campus—is here,” he continued. “So, we decided to create this exhibit that honors William Wesley Peters, the Norton Center architect; his mentor, friend and father-in-law, iconic-architect Frank Lloyd Wright; and the significant influences and impacts these architects have had in our community, state and region.”
The Norton Center, originally named the Regional Arts Center of Centre College, has been an important part of the fabric of Centre’s campus and community since 1973.
“While not a milestone year for the cultural center, it has been on and a part of Centre for nearly one quarter of the College’s life,” Hoffman said. “That is very significant, especially if you imagine what the campus might be like without all of the great programs, artists and learning opportunities that have occurred here.
“My hope has been that in conducting this research about the first nearly 50 years now, future leaders and administrators of Centre and the Norton Center will not have to research the early years of this facility” he continued. “This exhibit is meant to preserve and share the history of one of our legacy buildings so that at the next ‘centennial’ or other milestone in the future, we’ll have at least provided them with our story so far.”
Over the years, there has been a countless number of impressive musicians, dancers, actors and authors who have performed in the Norton Center. In addition, there have been two vice presidential debates that have taken place on the Newlin Hall stage, as well as a variety of performances and concerts presented by Centre students.
“It is a true opportunity for our students to have the opportunity to learn, perform and serve as patrons in a world-class facility like the Norton Center,” he added.
Hoffman credited Milton Reigelman, Cowan Professor of English, Emeritus, with the idea to host an exhibit in celebration of the building.
“Milton was asked to participate in the creation of the exhibition by writing an essay on the influences the Frank Lloyd Wright Foundation architects have had on our Danville community,” Hoffman said. “His research identified three homes in Danville that were heavily influenced by the Foundation and, in his typically refreshing prose, Milton provides great and meaningful insights.”
Research for this exhibit took over a year and a half. There were visits to the Frank Lloyd Wright Archives at Columbia University, numerous conversations with leadership at Taliesin West and the Frank Lloyd Wright Foundation, special assistance from Fallingwater and the Guggenheim Museum, visits to other Foundation-designed buildings in Kentucky, and, most importantly, thorough research combing through the archives at Centre’s Doherty Library.
Due to the fact that there was more research conducted than could fit on the exhibition walls, the Norton Center created a special micro-website, that allows individuals to dig deeper.
The exhibit has many interactive opportunities, from seeing what the building could have looked like, guessing where abstract photos were taken within the building, being able to look into and around an official replica of the Fallingwater home and grounds, and playing games that Frank Lloyd Wright and other “creative types” played while growing up to develop cognitive thinking and creativity. In addition, there will be a Bluegrass Architecture Festival presented on October 26 with interesting panels, tours and insights.
Learn more about The Wright Angle exhibit here.
by Kerry Steinhofer
September 12, 2019