An anniversary calls for a celebration, and the Redfern Arts Center on Brickyard Pond is completing a year-long tribute to 25 years of the fine and performing arts at Keene State College and in the Monadnock region. For 25 years many people have created works of art, directed and acted, made music, and danced on its stages and in its studios. Over 300,000 audience members have attended concerts, plays, art exhibits, films, lectures, and classes; they have participated in master classes and entered into conversations with visiting professional artists.
The building of the Redfern Arts Center came about through the tireless efforts of former KSC President Leo F. Redfern, who believed that "A great college needs a great arts center." The construction of the Arts Center was the gateway to the architectural renaissance that continues today. "When the Arts Center was being constructed I was a student and living in the corner room of Bushnell, overlooking the construction site," recalls Cheryl Perry '79, the Redfern's technical operations manager. "I would awake every morning to the sound of a pile driver outside my window. I think it is a fitting bookend that, at our 25th anniversary, I once again am listening to a pile driver outside the windows of the Arts Center." (The noise heralds one of the new residence halls, Pondside III. )
Of course, the anniversary celebration conjures up stories from those who have been associated with the Redfern since it opened its doors. The faculty eagerly waited for the day they could move in and welcomed any opportunity to get a preview.
Dan Patterson, associate professor of theatre, was given such an opportunity. "I was being shown around the new, unfinished building back in 1979," he remembers, "and was walking around what is now the balcony of the Wright Theatre. The crew was showing off the catwalk system and was justifiably proud of the design. I was very enthusiastic and said, 'This is very cool; how do you get up to it?'
Whereupon the foreman started to scratch his head and we all adjourned to the job site trailer to look at the drawings.
"Guess what? They hadn't designed in a way to get up onto the catwalks. I noticed in a subsequent visit that they had gone up a level over the catwalk in the equipment room and cut a hole down through the concrete and bolted a ladder to the wall. So you had to walk up the stairwell one flight higher and then climb down through a very narrow hole to get to the catwalks. And that's the access to this day."
Professor of Music Doug Nelson, who chaired the department for many years, recalls his first year of conducting the Concert Band at the Redfern. "When the Arts Center opened, we were delighted to be here, in spite of no rehearsal room large enough for the KSC Concert Band and in spite of the fact that the Main Theatre was not yet finished.
"Three rows of seats were removed from the front of the Recital Hall and an eight-foot plywood extension was constructed in order to get the band on that stage for our first performance in this new building. I conducted from a separate platform even further out from the extension. Some of our repertoire included the need for a grand piano, so the pianist played from one of the wings, peeking out the door to see the conductor."
If you have another anecdote about the early days of the Redfern, please send it to Susan Peery in College Relations for Newsline, the e-newsletter for alumni.
Bill Menezes is director of the Redfern Arts Center on Brickyard Pond.