A vision for the Loyola Academy campus 10 years in the making is now officially underway in Wilmette! A small group of school leaders, benefactors and stakeholders gathered in a private ceremony on Sunday, March 28, to mark the groundbreaking of the new $27 million Loyola Academy Center for the Performing Arts, home of the Leemputte Family Theater. The event hosted a limited number of guests due to current COVID-19 restrictions, and a highlights video was shared with the larger community to join in the excitement of this special milestone in the school’s history.
The new 29,000-square foot performing arts center will transform the northeast corner of the school’s campus with indoor and outdoor performance spaces that support a vibrant arts program for all students. It will feature a 550-seat proscenium theater with a balcony, orchestra pit, and fly tower; a spacious lobby and gallery space; a fully equipped scene shop; a green room; makeup and dressing rooms; a director’s office; state of the art lighting and production technologies; an outdoor plaza that will function as an open-air performance stage and gathering space for the Loyola community; a flexible student lounge; and a newly defined campus quad, designed by students in Loyola’s Architecture Club, a high school chapter of American Institute of Architecture Students.
The spring groundbreaking coincided with the beginning of Holy Week, and so a special Palm Sunday Mass in Loyola Academy’s Chapel preceded the ceremony and blessing of the new space.
Following Mass, guests moved to Loyola’s student center, where they had the opportunity to meet architects from Krueck Sexton Partners, view the project’s latest renderings and see Loyola’s Architecture Club unveil its 4’ x 8’ Wilmette Campus massing model featuring a scaled version of the campus including the new theater and proposed quad designs. Outside, Valenti Builders created a footprint of the new building with stanchions and balloons to help guests visualize the size and grandeur of the forthcoming new space.
Loyola Academy President Rev. Patrick E. McGrath, SJ, welcomed guests and spoke of the profound power and impact of the arts in our lives: “The vision for the arts at Loyola has been around for a long time and the role of the arts in Jesuit education has been around for more than 500 years. For a religious order that has been so deeply dedicated to the humanities and all learning as a way of coming to experience God more deeply, the arts have always played a central part in who we are as Jesuits and who we are as schools of the Society of Jesus. And we know intuitively from our lived experience the power of the arts to move us, to change us, to invite us to think differently, to bring people together. As learners, we know the impact of the arts in the iterative process that’s necessary for great art to be produced….We know the power of the arts to move communities to inspire people to change and to action. And we Jesuits see, as all of us in the Cathoic community see, the arts as the primary way in which God makes Godself known to us.”
Key figures in the development of the project addressed those present at the reception and shared reflections on the importance of the arts and the impact this spectacular project will have on generations of Ramblers to come. Peter G. Leemputte ’75 shared why he and his wife, Ellen, were among the earliest supporters of the school’s $27 million Second Century Campaign Theater Initiative. Peter Broccolo ’74, chair of Loyola’s Buildings and Grounds Committee, spoke about the vision for the campus. And Sara Lundgren, the principal designer and partner of Krueck Sexton Partners architecture firm, discussed how the new building was designed to support Loyola's mission and commitment to arts education and creativity.
Fr. McGrath then led the group in a prayer of gratitude and a blessing on the area that is soon to be transformed: “Loving God, continue to inspire us. Continue to lead us to new visions…May the arts as experienced here help students learn, community grow, and peace to be found.”
The event came to a close with a symbolic breaking of the ground by a large piece of digging equipment stationed outside.
Loyola Academy's new Center for the Performing Arts, home of the Leemputte Family Theater, represents a long-anticipated expansion of resources and facilities that will benefit all Loyola students and expand access to a broader network of our community partners, neighbors and friends. The new performing arts center will open Fall 2022.