The Coat of Arms

Status on the New Performing Arts Center

Florence+Moore+Auditorium.+Staff+Photo%3A+Crystal+Bai.+
Florence Moore Auditorium. Staff Photo: Crystal Bai.

Florence Moore Auditorium. Staff Photo: Crystal Bai.

Florence Moore Auditorium. Staff Photo: Crystal Bai.

Adley Vogel, Staff Writer

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In 2014, Head of School Than Healy revealed new plans for the future of Menlo’s campus to the student body. In this presentation, renderings were shown for the new cafeteria, student center and tech center that we now have after a year of construction from June 2016 to August 2017. In those renderings could be seen the front of the planned new performing arts center – which has yet to be built.

“We originally designed and had intended to build the CADC and performing arts center together as one project,” Director of Communications Alex Perez said. “They were both designed at the same time in 2007.”

However, Perez explained that the 2008 financial crisis forced the school to make a choice. “At the time we thought, ‘let’s get the classrooms built first, and then get back to the performing arts center.’ We didn’t imagine that was going to be 10 years or more. We thought we would have gotten to it sooner.”

With the departure of former Head of School Norm Colb and the arrival of current Head of School Healy, the school reexamined its priorities and launched something called a feasibility study to find out what was most important to Menlo families and donors at that moment. “The dining hall was priority number one. That had to happen right away,” Perez said. Among the other candidates were changes to Cartan field, and it was shown that the performing arts center was third on that list.

But now that the new cafeteria has been built and several athletic areas have been renovated, Perez said, “Folks are looking and going, ‘it would be so great to complete the campus [with a performing arts center].’”

The conditional use permits, given to Menlo School by the city of Atherton as a go-ahead for the construction of the cafeteria and tech center, are still valid for a future performing arts center. However, Perez said that the conditional permits aren’t the permits needed to actually begin construction, and that the school has no immediate plans to file for such permits. “We’re being very careful not to promise that anything is going to happen [right now],” Perez said.

While there is no immediate prospect of a new performing arts center, this decision doesn’t reflect Menlo’s attitude towards the arts. “The school really needs to have its own theater. We’ve been, for 30 years, in that space [FloMo Auditorium] that wasn’t built to be a theater. It was built to be a lecture hall that, in the 80s, we converted into the theater we have today. It’s still very makeshift.” Perez said. “The infrastructure just isn’t keeping up with the standards and the quality of the performances we are now producing.”

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