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Yale debuts new hub for arts, discovery, and connection

After nearly four years behind tarps and scaffolding, Yale Schwarzman Center (YSC) this week opened to students, faculty, and staff for the first time. The opening of the building’s Commons for lunch, The Underground for seating, and The Bow Wow for grab-and-go service marks the first in a series of launches for the center’s various multi-use dining, performance, dance, and exhibition spaces in coming months.

Located at the corner of Grove and Prospect streets, YSC transforms the historic Commons and the floors above and below the adjacent Memorial Hall, iconic landmarks built for the university’s 1901 bicentennial. It is also Yale’s first university-wide student center, a response to students’ appeal to President Peter Salovey for a space that bridges boundaries between undergraduate, graduate, and professional students. A new generation of Yale students will now experience their predecessors’ vision for the “interconnected community that builds new traditions of student engagement around campus and into the world,” as described in their 2015 report.

In mid-September, YSC will begin offering small-group tours to help familiarize students, faculty, and staff with the building. These tours will include a peek inside The Dome, the refurbished performance space that once served as the Yale Banner yearbook office, and many of the reimagined spaces throughout the Beaux Arts-style building. Those interested in learning about the types of programming to expect at YSC as public health conditions improve and performances resume should attend one of the scheduled Zoom information sessions on Sept. 17. Registration for the tours and info sessions will open soon on the YSC website.

The largest and most recognizable space, Commons, features a dining room often compared to Grand Central Terminal in its beauty and scale. Its iconic 50-foot vaulted ceiling and exposed timber-trusses are now restored to their original grandeur. Commons also houses a large open kitchen serving customizable fare from around the globe. Environmental and theatrical systems were added to transform the space into a multi-purpose arts and dining destination.

Excavations and renovations also created a new level of arts and dining spaces beneath Hewitt Quadrangle and Commons. One of those spaces, The Underground, features a small stage for performances such as a cappella and stand-up comedy and offers two dining options: Elm, an all-day café with global flair, and Ivy, late-night pub fare and sushi. Both will open soon. Just down the hall, The Bow Wow offers grab-and-go dining options for people on the move and is conveniently located across from the Dance Studio.

The Well, located directly beneath the Rotunda, is expected to open later this fall. The intimate 21-plus pub features comfortable seating and a curved, two-level bar encircled by the building’s original granite foundation.

The Annex, an addition on the Grove Street side of the building, adds nearly a block’s length of bright alcoves and spacious meeting rooms. It also houses a satellite location of The Good Life Center, Yale’s student wellness center, scheduled to open this October.

Beyond a physical student center, YSC will serve as a vibrant social and intellectual hub that transforms student life at Yale,” said Garth Ross, Yale Schwarzman Center’s executive director. “It will provide unique cross-disciplinary opportunities and enriching experiences that spark new dialogue, new ways of thinking, and creative possibilities.”

Short- and long-term residencies of scholars, activists, business executives, and artists are underway. The interactions and collaborations between professionals with students reflect Yale’s commitment to diversity and inclusion, while also connecting Yale and the broader New Haven community.

Ross added, “We look forward to activating the entirety of Yale Schwarzman Center over the next several months. We are celebrating an exciting first step that will be made even more special when the pandemic is behind us and we are able to hold a ribbon-cutting with friends across our New Haven community and off-campus guests who continue to share in the vision and development of the center.”

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