Clark ‘encouraged’ by master plan feedback
By Joshua Maloni
Having toured the grounds, analyzed the topography – and even watched Sammy Hagar in concert – Artpark & Company’s master plan team took the next step in creating a map of the venue’s future when it hosted a public listening session on Wednesday.
About 60 people sat on the Mainstage Theater stage to hear from Florian Idenburg and Sophie Nichols of the SO-IL architecture and design firm; Daniel Vasini of landscape design outfit West 8; and Jerad Schomer and Eric Magloire of theater and acoustic company Charcoalblue.
“Today is not going to be a presentation to tell you what we’re going to do. Today is more to hear from you. What do you see, what do you know?” Artpark Executive Director Sonia Kozlova Clark said inside the Mainstage Theater. And eventually, through this six-month process, eventually we’ll come up with a plan that we’ll share with you, with your input, with your help. So, today is definitely about you. It’s about your voice.”
She explained, “We need new spaces – new opportunities – for artists. We need new opportunities for our audiences. We’re definitely looking at possibilities – ways to bring in more people to this site. It’s my personal mission to bring in anybody I can from all over the world to see and benefit from this site, because it is absolutely stunning. It also represents ideas of our relationship with the environment. What we have done with this Earth in the past; what we’re doing now, and opportunities now to redeem ourselves, perhaps, or do better, right?”
Idenburg said he and the team are excited about Artpark’s past and its potential – which is remarkable considering they weren’t aware of the Lewiston space until recently.
“We didn’t know what Artpark was,” he said. “And we went online and we started to read and we realized, ‘Why didn’t we know? Why didn’t we know about this incredible place?’ We obviously started to learn about the legacy, the history, the incredible life that’s been taking place here for so many generations. And looking at its contemporary programming.
“And then we came out here in the winter. There was nobody here and it was very cold and very wet. But what we did see, we discovered the land. And we discovered not just the venues. We walked here; it was very cold inside here, as well. But also (beautiful). We walked all the way up to the plateau and all the different areas, and we discovered such a rich and very diverse land. And we realized, in order to develop a vision for what this park needs to be, we need to bring a very diverse and multifaceted team together.
“We realize this landscape, the landscape itself, as a constructed landscape, is a really interesting quality of this place. And we need to find a landscape partner who really understands this idea of nature – but not just nature in a natural sense, but also nature in a constructed sense.”
Artpark patrons and Lewiston residents share their ideas for the venue’s future. Taking notes is Daniel Vasini of West 8.
Vasini and Nichols told the audience that people would be sent to different tables to form conversation groups brainstorming what could be at the park.
“What is your ‘a-ha’ moment?” Vasini asked. “I really want to learn what is the fantasy that you’re craving for, to bring back in a way.”
Nichols said, “The culture is really centered on this idea that you have unbelievable resources and a lot of different ways to sort of interact with them.”
She added, “There’s a legacy of constructing landscapes here and being able to make them exactly what we need. And so, humans are really part of the ecology, and we wanted to be able to find a way to celebrate that. And instead of making new, massive earthworks, as have produced this area, and areas like it – such as landfills, golf courses, aquariums, all these ways that kind of, like, point to what our relationship with the landscape is – what we were hoping is we could kind of celebrate what’s already happened; and exist in a new nature; and sort of program it, and live in it in a way that already exists, rather than making more giant moves.
“There’s a lot of opportunity.”
Sophie Nichols educates the audience.
Vasini said, “As in any other practice, the thing for us that’s really important is to first understand all the way from the foundational elements, in terms of landscape. It’s almost like being a doctor and analyzing, really, what is the anatomy of this place. So, for us it was very important to see and you start understanding the elements. For us, it’s very important to understand the different levels. So that’s very unique about this place, that you’re high, low, medium, the plateaus, the lower level of the water. It’s very important that (we) take a look at sequence or a scenery of stepping down or stepping up. And how you go through that landscape and understand all the vegetary areas versus the open areas.”
Some audience ideas included operating the venue year-round, connecting trails, celebrating history and encouraging the creation of art – not just artistic demonstrations.
Schomer shared that his team had an idea for the outdoor stage.
“One of the first things that we noticed, when we came to the site in February, was the strange, kind of asymmetrical shape of the amphitheater,” he said. “So that was one of the things that we seeked to address sort of fairly early on in the competition phase of this project. We did an analysis of the existing amphitheater, and you can see that the main area of the audience is actually quite a bit off-center of the stage. And actually walking around during the concert last night, there are seats that are actually looking uphill at the stage, and they’re really seeing the underside of the stage roof, and not the people on the stage at all.”
He added, “Our proposal is a fairly minor shift within the amphitheater structure itself. It keeps the stage position roughly in the same area, but it reorients it up into the natural landscape of the hillside and where the ridgeline that Daniel mentioned is situated. And we think that this will improve the audience experience for everyone. It will improve circulation for getting to and from the stage area for artists and technicians. And I think, more importantly, it ties into the landscape of the park in a way that the current theater doesn’t really do.
“A byproduct of doing that – and I think one of the main benefits of it, potentially, for the surrounding Lewiston community – is that it will direct the sound into the hillside, as opposed to directly at the town.”
Idenburg said, “There’s a reason why you are on the stage. We need to do this together. We need to do this with you. The idea is that we create this vision, we develop this vision together, in dialogue with everybody here.”
He referenced an article published 45 years ago.
“Clearly this place defined an era, and now our task is to define a new era,” Idenburg said. “How are we going to do that? How are we going to do that together? Tonight, as we start this process of gathering information, of starting conversations with all of you, as we start this six-month trajectory to develop a vision, we would like to work with you on sort of what is this new headline going to be.”
Following the meeting, Clark said, “I am very encouraged by all of the great ideas and the really great attitude, and great, inspiring, very practical and constructive suggestions. And participation. I’m so encouraged,” she said. “I think people are really on board with our direction. That’s what it feels like right now. I’m super-pleased.”
She indicated information from the public meeting would be compiled and reviewed, leading up to a second meeting and master plan update later in the summer.
WATCH MEETING HIGHLIGHTS:
Jerad Schomer works with the crowd.
About the Master Plan Team
Courtesy of Artpark & Company
•Founded in 2008 by Florian Idenburg and Jing Liu, SO – IL is an internationally recognized architecture and design firm based in New York. It designs and produces spaces for creativity, innovation, culture, learning and living around the world.
•With a multi-disciplinary approach to complex design issues, West 8 has extensive experience in large-scale international urban master planning and design, landscape interventions, waterfront projects, parks, squares and gardens, such as Governors Island and Madrid Rio. It creates multifaceted concepts and visions for significant planning issues that address global warming, urbanization and infrastructure.
•Charcoalblue is regarded as one of the most exciting and innovative theater and acoustic consultancies in the world. It provides detailed design guidance on all aspects of theater, performance and arts projects, from concert halls and theaters to galleries, rehearsal suites and community spaces.
•Gekh is a Buffalo-based design studio working where the built environment, culture and media intersect. A partnership between Jordan Geiger and Omar Khan, Gekh realizes complex projects for cultural organizations, private clients and community groups. Gekh has assisted Artpark through its master plan team selection process and will continue to advise through the development of the proposals.
Sonia Kozlova Clark welcomes attendees.