Isabel Bader Centre celebrates grand opening

After opening for classes two weeks ago, the Isabel opened for the community on Saturday

Five years after its groundbreaking, the Isabel Bader Centre is open to the public.
Five years after its groundbreaking, the Isabel Bader Centre is open to the public.
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After nearly a decade of planning and construction, the Isabel Bader Centre for the Performing Arts celebrated its grand opening this past weekend.

On Sept. 20, members of the Queen’s and Kingston community gathered at the waterfront venue located on King St. for the new centre’s official ribbon cutting.

The building was inspired by the lead donors, Drs. Alfred and Isabel Bader. It was designed in a collaborative effort by Snøhetta Design Architects and N45 Architecture.

Following a bagpipe procession and traditional Mohawk opening by Aboriginal Council Co-Chair Marlene Brant Castellano, drama professor Tim Fort led the events as Master of Ceremonies.

Remarks were given by Principal Daniel Woolf, Kingston and the Islands MPP Sophie Kiwala, Mayor Mark Gerretsen, Snøhetta architect Craig Dykers and Board of Trustees chair Barbara Palk. Afterwards, the group of distinguished community members cut the bright purple ribbon alongside the Baders.

The final product of Queen’s newest building has been much anticipated since its groundbreaking on Oct. 1, 2009. Construction was originally scheduled to begin in spring 2011, but was delayed until spring 2012 due to heritage concerns.

Alfred Bader donated a total of $31 million towards the building, which cost $72 million to build. Approximately $30 million came from the provincial and federal governments, $6 million was donated by the City of Kingston and the remaining $5 million was raised by the University.

Isabel Bader said she hopes her vision for the appreciation of the fine art world will reach many.

“I hope [the centre] is for Queen’s and Kingston. I hope it’s for a much wider audience than that,” she said.

With Kingston’s existing art facilities, such as Modern Fuel Artist-Run Centre and the Agnes Etherington Art Centre, Principal Woolf anticipates that Dr. Bader’s hopes will come true.

“In balance with those existing facilities, Kingston could really become a hub for the fine arts,” Woolf said.

“We’re going to get performers here that probably wouldn’t have come to Kingston otherwise and that’s going to be a benefit to the community. Not just a cultural benefit, but I think there’s economic potential there as well.”

Principal Woolf also said he foresees stronger relationships between the varying fine arts disciplines – drama, film and media, fine arts and music – at Queen’s.

“I think it’s going to be a great opportunity for interdisciplinary collaboration between all the fine arts,” Woolf said.

He added that he hopes the new building will attract students to attend the fine arts degree program at Queen’s.

“In the era of student tours, the buildings make a difference,” Woolf said. “Students will come here, see this and say, ‘I can perform here’.”

The Journal reported last week that students were upset over a lack of accessibility to the facility, as well as a shortage of food options.

Despite this, students who spoke at the opening touched on the “magnificence” of the building.

In comparison to the facilities available to fine arts students prior to the Isabel, music student Daphne Kennedy said this is a major upgrade.

“You can’t even really compare – it’s a whole new world here,” Kennedy, ArtSci ‘16, said.

Kennedy, as well as other fine arts students, said she’s aware of the opportunities the facility is presenting for them.

“Being able to bring world-class artists here is going to be incredible. It will be a huge inspiration for us all,” she said.

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