Pictured is the Roger Glass Center for the Arts. Photo courtesy of Olivia Shirk for Flyer News.
Lucy Waskiewicz | News Editor
Located at the convergence of campus and city and steeped in local history, the new Roger Glass Center for the Arts is a prominent symbol of community, education and a profound appreciation of the arts.
The Glass Center officially opened on Jan. 8, 2024. At 51,200 square feet, it is the University’s first building dedicated to the visual and performing arts.
Named after the late Roger Glass ’67, lead donor and UD alumnus, the Glass Center boasts a myriad of features, including two performance venues, an art gallery, and a full suite of media production facilities.
Danielle Poe, dean of the College of Arts and Sciences, said the building celebrates the role of the arts in a UD education.
“UD’s mission is to develop students as a whole person such that our graduates are not only ready to start their first jobs, but they have the creativity, the compassion and the relationships to adapt to an ever-changing world and to careers that do not yet exist,” Poe said.
The Glass Center is currently hosting classes and preparing for its first public events, beginning with an art exhibition that opened on Jan. 27.
The building’s official grand opening celebration will take place on April 13, 2024.
Although construction is still in progress, many Flyers have already made their home in the Glass Center, where they are editing video with new equipment, holding acoustic tuning sessions in the concert hall and unpacking brand-new office spaces. Flyer News spoke with students and faculty from the Department of Art and Design, the Department of Music, the Theatre, Dance and Performance Technology Program and Flyer Media, all of whom made one thing clear — there’s no shortage of excitement to be had about the new center for the arts.
Advancing campus and community arts
Situated on approximately five acres at the southeast corner of Main and East Stewart streets, the Glass Center consolidates creative and experiential learning facilities previously spread across six University buildings into a single space.
The one-story center hosts four main components:
- A 386-seat concert hall, which can be acoustically tuned to accommodate performances both small and large.
- An experimental theater in a flexible space that allows sound and lighting from any angle.
- A visual arts gallery that can host two-dimensional, three-dimensional, and digital art installations.
- A customized suite of experiential learning facilities for Flyer Media’s Flyer TV, WUDR Flyer Radio, and Flyer News, including a TV studio, control room, video-editing lab, radio studio and audio production suite.
Other notable features include a shared back-of-house area with three dressing rooms, two outdoor plazas for art displays and outdoor events and specialized acoustic design to minimize sound transfer at performance spaces. The building itself was designed to meet LEED-gold environmental standards, which consider factors such as energy, water, waste and indoor environmental quality.
However, it is the enthusiasm for finer details that suggests the Glass Center is ascending above and beyond its goal of elevating the arts on campus. Moving in from cramped studios in Raymond L. Fitz Hall and tucked-away offices in Kennedy Union, students and faculty are more than eager about the amenities of their new space — from the concert hall walls to the stage floors.
“As a musician, it’s hard not to be over the moon for our new concert hall,” said Toby Rush, chair of the Department of Music. “It’s not only a beautiful space, but it has infinitely flexible acoustics — behind all the walls, there are sound-absorbing curtains that can be deployed or retracted and large shutters that can be opened and closed, so that the space can be changed to support a small solo or chamber performance or a full symphony orchestra with the push of a button.”
Ella Widau, a marketing and theater, dance and performance technology double major, grew up dancing on concrete surfaces that put strain and pressure on their joints. News of the Glass Center’s shock-absorbing dancing floors in the experimental theater was a welcome surprise.
“It’s super exciting to hear that they have sprung floors,” Widau said. “Having proper dance floors to perform on makes a much bigger difference than I think people realize.”
Many view the Glass Center as not only an opportunity to take advantage of state-of-the-art facilities and technology, but to collaborate with other disciplines and share art in a dedicated creative space.
Rush said uniting the programs represented in the Glass Center is already fostering cooperation previously hindered by their physical and thus, curricular, separation.
“Having a space where we can all work is generating a deep sense of collaboration that is not only strengthening each of us, but inspiring some amazing new opportunities,” he said. “Some of these collaborative opportunities are quite literally hardwired into the building — for example, performances in the new concert hall and experimental theater can be easily recorded and even broadcast on Flyer TV and Flyer Radio with the flick of a few switches.”
Joel Whitaker, chair of the Department of Art and Design, said having the Glass Center as an arts-exclusive destination will increase each component’s visibility and accessibility.
“Attendance for gallery events will greatly increase as the gallery will be easily accessible for those who may be attending another event in the Glass Center — a holistic way of thinking and appreciating the arts,” he said.
Alongside its goal of advancing campus arts, the Glass Center was also designed to increase connection with the Dayton community. Its two main doors — one facing the University and the other facing Dayton — symbolize the link between campus and city. The building is publicly accessible and will host art and performances by both students and members of the Dayton community.
Whitaker said the Art and Design department plans to work with local partners and other campus departments to facilitate learning experiences through the Glass Center.
“Our goal is to use the exhibitions, visiting artists and speakers for workshops and community engagement and to develop programming with DECA and K12 Gallery, as well as other current and future community partners,” said Whitaker.
The Glass Center was also designed in consultation with local arts organizations to create spaces that complement existing arts venues, rather than competing with them.
At the intersection of campus and city
The roots of the Roger Glass Center for the Arts run deep in the local and campus community.
Its lead donor and namesake, Roger Glass, graduated from the University in 1967, where he was a communication arts major and trumpet player for the Pride of Dayton marching band.
Glass was also the president and CEO of Marion’s Piazza, the iconic local chain that has been serving up pizza and sandwiches to Daytonians since it was founded by Glass’ father, Marion Glass, in 1965.
When UD announced its plans for the arts center in 2021, Glass envisioned it as a bustling arts hub for both campus and community.
“This is an opportunity for all of the arts at UD to come together and have an amazing place to display their talents,” Glass said then. “Not only the university but the community will be able to take advantage of the center for the arts. I really see it being busy all the time.”
Glass died in August 2022 at 79. Following his death, University President Eric Spina remembered him as a man with a caring heart, a love for the arts, and a deep connection to his alma mater.
“While I am sad that he won’t be able to experience in person the completed Roger Glass Center for the Arts, it is a fitting tribute that he will be forever memorialized and remembered at UD,” Spina said in an Instagram post after Glass’ death.
Glass’ donation set into motion a project that was born nearly 20 years prior, when Dayton resident Martha M. Walter left $2 million to the University after she died in 2002 at age 90. Walter took a photography course at the University through a tuition-free learning program for seniors, and her gift was designated for a future arts center.
Poe said the contributions of both Glass and Walter highlight the true partnership between campus and city.
“The legacy that Roger Glass and Martha Walter have preserved by investing in the Glass Center represents exactly who we are as a university,” Poe said. “We are the University of Dayton—and the emphasis on ‘of’ is highly significant. We invest in our community, and the community has invested in us and our students.”
More than 120 donors, including UD faculty and staff, contributed to the Glass Center. The building’s total cost was $45 million.
The importance of the arts
As colleges and universities across the country continue to cut away at liberal arts programs, the Glass Center is a vote of confidence for the importance of the arts in a University of Dayton education.
For many students, it’s also a gesture of recognition and support for their passions, identities and future careers.
Phoenix Lex is a sophomore photography major. He utilizes photography as a way to speak on his experience of being openly queer and transgender without words, a concept on which he centers many class projects.
“It’s not something that can be understood unless you have been in their [the queer and transgender communities’] shoes, and often documenting the successes and struggles conveys the emotions and perspective better than just explaining it to someone,” he said.
Lex said the new photography-dedicated space in the Glass Center saves students the time of assembling and disassembling sets and allows for after-hours work, both of which are crucial to the success of their projects.
Marissa Perkins, a junior communications major, is involved with Flyer TV and WUDR Flyer Radio, where she found both hands-on work experience and meaningful friendships. She felt the Glass Center gives deserved recognition to the programs that transformed her college life.
“Having a new-arts dedicated building makes me feel cared for at the University, and that my major and career goals aren’t things that deserve to be shoved in a corner in a building where people don’t even know we exist,” Perkins said.
Students and faculty in these often-smaller departments also said they hope the Glass Center will bring more recognition to their art and performances, which could go overlooked without a dedicated artistic space on campus.
“This new experimental theater space will be an important space to welcome community, with visibility and accessibility we’ve never had before,” said Michelle Hayford, director of the Theatre, Dance and Performance Technology Program.
Others emphasized the importance of high-quality experiential learning facilities as students prepare for their careers. Pat Enright, director of Flyer Media, emphasized the program’s role in helping students build strong resumes and content portfolios.
“All of the students connected with Flyer Media get hands-on experience and are producing real content or working on real projects with real clients,” Enright said. “They are now working in a state-of-the-art facility, getting experience with the latest technology in media production.”
Looking toward the future
With classes underway and a full slate of events planned for spring, the Glass Center becomes more animated each day.
Its first event, a gallery exhibit titled “Get Together,” opened on Jan. 27 accompanied by an afternoon reception. The exhibit is on display until March 17 and features the work of 90 artists from the Dayton area, highlighting the community-oriented spirit of the Glass Center.
Other events planned include the University of Dayton Choral Festival, a student production of Godspell, and a collaborative performance between American jazz vibraphonist Warren Wolf and the UD Faculty Jazztet and Dayton Jazz Ensemble.
As the Glass Center prepares for its grand opening in April, Poe emphasized the significance of the arts not only in students’ educations, but in their lives.
“By bringing the arts together in a single, beautiful and highly visible space, we are celebrating the arts’ role in what it means to be human,” Poe said. “The arts build our ability to enter into relationships, to solve problems creatively, and to appreciate diverse experiences.”
For more information, visit the Roger Glass Center for the Arts website.