When the new Raclin Murphy Museum of Art opens on the edge of campus later this fall, it will mark the debut of the initial phase of the Notre Dame Arts Gateway — a collection of state-of-the-art buildings and spaces dedicated to the visual and performing arts and architecture at the University of Notre Dame.
Located along the north side of Angela Boulevard between Notre Dame Avenue and Joyce Drive, opposite Eddy Street Commons, the Arts Gateway consists of the Raclin Murphy Museum of Art and Charles B. Hayes Family Sculpture Park, O’Neill Hall of Music and Sacred Music, Walsh Family Hall of Architecture and DeBartolo Performing Arts Center.
For those who remember when that end of campus was little more than fields and parking lots, it’s been a long time in the making.
Planning for the gateway began in the 1990s. The DeBartolo Performing Arts Center opened in 2004, followed by the Charles B. Hayes Sculpture Park and O’Neill Hall of Music and Sacred Music in 2017 and Walsh Family Hall in 2019.
Today, the area features a variety of buildings and spaces—comprising more than 400,000 square feet of classroom, performance, exhibition and support space—dedicated to architecture, cinema, dance, music, theater and the visual arts, making for a valuable addition to the already thriving local arts scene.
“The arts are one of the most profound elements of human condition, and one of the greatest gifts we can share with one another,” said Joseph Becherer, director and curator of the Raclin Murphy Museum of Art. “They can offer insight, understanding, joy, even healing, and through the Arts Gateway, individually and collectively, Notre Dame is committed to share, learn and grow with the entire community, indeed, the entire world. This is a commitment from deep within, just as the arts themselves come from deep within.”
As the name suggests, the gateway is both a literal and metaphorical entryway to campus, at once vibrant and accessible, where visitors and members of the local community can join with students, faculty and staff to experience a wide variety of visual and performing arts and engage in arts education.
At the same time, it is the physical manifestation of a new strategic initiative, Arts@ND, designed to bring the visual and performing arts and architecture together under one umbrella with a single, overarching goal in mind: showcase the many vibrant arts and culture events that happen on campus and provide opportunities for intellectual and sensory engagement.
This includes a new website, arts.nd.edu, with information and news about the arts, including event listings and parking and other information related to the Arts Gateway and other arts-related buildings and venues on campus.
But it all revolves around the gateway.
“With the Arts Gateway, we have this incredible footprint now that really welcomes people to campus,” said Ted Barron, executive director of the DeBartolo Performing Arts Center for the past 7 years.
This aligns with the University’s newly adopted Strategic Framework, which calls for continued engagement with South Bend and the surrounding community with the understanding that a healthy, prosperous community makes for a stronger and more resilient Notre Dame.
For his part, Michael Schreffler, associate dean for the arts in the College of Arts and Letters, describes the gateway as a “two-way street linking campus to the larger community.”
“We at Notre Dame have so much to offer,” Schreffler said. “We engage with the South Bend community through exhibitions and performances, but we want to do even more through partnerships with community organizations in music and the visual and performing arts.”
This past June, the DeBartolo Performing Arts Center partnered with a variety of local organizations to host a first-of-its-kind Juneteenth event on campus. The Juneteenth Celebration and Resource Fair featured dozens of booths along with food, music and giveaways. Hundreds of attendees packed the performing arts center’s terrace and the adjacent Irish Green.
“It was a wonderful success,” Barron said, and an example of the type of event the gateway was designed to facilitate.
In fact, along with others in the campus arts community, Barron is in the very early stages of planning for what would be a biennial (every other year) arts festival featuring a variety of programs and events designed to stir emotions and spark civil but impassioned discourse around a specific theme, such as community or democracy.
According to Schreffler, “The plan is to institute something called the Notre Dame Arts Biennial, a six-month, broad-based collaborative project grounded in the visual and performing arts. Each iteration of it would be thematically aligned with the University’s mission and priorities … (and) the various units in the Arts Gateway would program exhibitions and performances and presentations by faculty members but also visiting artists and scholars and develop curricular activities to go along with the theme.”
The event would be modeled on similar celebrations in places such as Venice, Italy, and São Paulo. “It starts with a festival on campus in April but extends out into the summer, and the goal is to set up a series of events so we’re actually creating more of a destination experience on campus,” Barron said.
But the gateway is about more than just opening new doors to the visual and performing arts. From an institutional perspective, it is a brick-and-mortar symbol of the University’s commitment to the arts, rooted in its Catholic history and character.
“Throughout its history, the University has made an extraordinary commitment to the arts, and I think traditionally, it’s been seen as part of the University’s mission,” Schreffler said, adding, for context, “The Catholic church has been one of the biggest patrons of the arts throughout history, so I wouldn’t consider it to be a new commitment.”
To be sure, future plans call for relocating the Department of Art, Art History and Design to the newly established Arts Gateway and creating new research and educational spaces for the Raclin Murphy Museum of Art.
The goal, according to Schreffler, is two-fold: “position the University as an important and influential leader in the arts and art research” and “produce a generation of Notre Dame alumni that not only value the arts, but see the arts as an integral part of the education of the whole person and, at the same time, go out into the world seeing advocacy and leadership in the arts as a force for good.”
According to Rev. Robert Dowd, C.S.C., the University’s vice president and associate provost for interdisciplinary initiatives, now is the ideal time for such work.
“With world-class facilities and outstanding academic programs, the arts at Notre Dame have never been stronger,” Father Dowd said. “Our investments in the arts not only strengthen our connections with the wider community, which is so important, but help us connect the arts with research and educational programming across the University. In the coming years, we will focus considerable energy on further integrating the arts into the life of the University.”