The Richard and Marilyn Vitek Center Musical Arts is no longer going to be built as it was announced in 2017 and planned for construction in 2019. Instead, a new plan for a center for musical arts is in the process of being created, and the money donated by the Vitek family will be used elsewhere.
In October of 2017, Albion College announced that it was going to build a new center designated specifically for music students. The center would be named after donors Richard Vitek, ‘56, and Marilyn Young Vitek, ‘56. The gift commitment for the center was the largest gift ever made by an individual or couple in the college’s history up to that point and covered roughly half of the original budget.
The plan for the center was initially born out of music students’ vocalized desire to have a space of their own outside of the basement of Goodrich Chapel. Funding support was sought, then received by the Viteks.
“The Viteks, neither of them were music majors. But they understood the power music has at a liberal arts college,” said Bob Anderson, vice president for alumni relations and development. “They really believed that made better scientists, and [Richard Vitek] was a scientist. That it made better students in general, and they supported that.”
While the College received enough funding for the plan as it was envisioned to be built on the corner of Cass Street and Ingham Street, there were multiple obstacles to the building that prevented the plan as originally envisioned.
Some of these obstacles included logistical issues involving the lot chosen. Grading the plot of land, for example, would have cost over $1 million, according to Anderson. Such expenditures within the budget would have resulted in the center being white boxed, meaning the rooms are occupiable but the outside structure is not. In addition, the resulting building would have likely been visually unappealing, according to Anderson.
“The old plan was not inspiring,” said Anderson. “While the interior spaces were impressive from an interior point of view, we weren’t able to make them impressive from a visual point of view at all, inside or out. And I think in the end, it was a project that was destined for redesign.”
Other hindrances to the project included the short time frame and a lack of evaluation in current college assets, among others.
Due to the difficulties in planning, the college decided to redesign the potential space for music students with new ideas, all the while taking into consideration the lessons learned from the previous plans. Some of these potential concepts include creating a space that allows multiple forms of the arts to congregate.
“We have a new president, and this president really believes that artistic expressions can be amplified when you have students together, regardless of their specific art interests,” said Anderson. “We’re looking at a process from a far more student-centric point of view than was done in the past. And I think we’re going to end up with a far more exciting project because of it.”
While Richard Vitek passed away in 2019, Marilyn Young Vitek is still interested in contributing to the success of students at Albion, along with other donors to the original Vitek Center.
“Mrs. Vitek, we believe, has found other interests at the college that she would like to support and put her money to use for sooner rather than later and wait for the building,” said Anderson. “So, we’re working with her and any other donors who would like to realign their gift.”
Instead of raising funds for the center and then composing a plan, as was done with the previous plans for the music center, the plans for the new music center will be created first before fundraising. This will allow for the building process to move along more smoothly and give the college space to ensure that the plan is as thoughtful as possible.
According to Anderson, the excitement for the previous project and other recent contributions to the music department are positive indications for the funding of the new project.
“We received an incredibly generous gift to build the band to over 120 members. A plan is being put in place to do that. We received another gift just recently for a concert piano,” said Anderson. “So, we are seeing our donors really appreciate the value music brings to the student experience at Albion, and so we think once have a really good plan in mind the process of fundraising is going to move much faster.”
Details regarding the new center including location, size, and estimated dates of construction and completion will likely be released between February and May of 2021, according to Anderson.
While this may come as a disappointment to current music students, Anderson said patience is a part of making sure the college builds the space for music students correctly and fulfills needs for a long period of time.
“Albion builds buildings for 50 years at a time,” said Anderson. “We are looking at other options because we are committed to doing something. The donors on the project want us to build a music building and so most donors are going to stick with us as we do it the right way that has a 50-year-to-100-year life span.”
Though current music students may not experience the new space for themselves, they are still welcome to be a part of the creative process, said Anderson.
“We want to do everything we can to give them a great experience. I also personally welcome their input,” said Anderson. “Feel free to share that with faculty, feel free to share that with me by email or give me a call and let me know. We are determined to do this right.”