A student-led project aims to revamp the very first performing arts venue constructed on the Mercyhurst University campus by this spring.
From Sunday matinees to student recitals; poetry readings to play rehearsals – the Taylor Little Theatre is one of Mercyhurst’s most diversely utilized venues. In that same spirit, the Mercyhurst Institute for Arts & Culture has gathered an array of creative thinkers from a hodgepodge of departments to help renovate its lobby. Mercyhurst students in the arts management, interior design, graphic design and fashion merchandising programs are joining award-winning local artist and designer Todd Scalise to transform the Taylor Little Theatre lobby into a contemporary space that also celebrates and honors its history.
From initial brainstorming to final designs, the Taylor Little Theatre Project gives students an unparalleled hands-on learning opportunity to apply their knowledge toward a real-world design challenge.
The cozy and comfortable Little Theatre opened on May 7, 1953, with a triumphant production of “Brigadoon.” On Oct. 16, 1994, it was dedicated in honor of Sister M. Eustace Taylor, twice a superior of the Sisters of Mercy and president of Mercyhurst, who served as the college’s English department chairwoman for many years.
Interior design students met with Scalise last spring to draw up preliminary concepts for the new lobby, drawing inspiration from recycled and repurposed building materials. Graphic design students also contributed artistic support and ideas.
The group’s plans have been passed on to an architectural firm, but before construction can begin, a student-led fundraising campaign is aiming to bridge the financial gap. Under the leadership of Jamie Grady, director of MIAC, arts management students are implementing a campaign to raise $50,000 by seeking out $50 from 1,000 people.
“We’re ready to take these designs and make them a reality,” Grady said. “The students have been so excited to work with Todd, and to know that their efforts are going to be shared by the Mercyhurst and Erie communities for years to come.”
Once construction begins, fashion merchandising students will craft gift items that reflect the spirit and artisanship of the new lobby space. Proceeds from the merchandise will go to a fund to support future student-led arts projects at Mercyhurst.
The TLT has gone through previous renovations, including installation of acoustic ceiling tiles, a Blu-Ray projection system and a sound system. The charming theater is the site of the popular Movies at Mercyhurst films on Sunday afternoons and Mercyhurst Theatre Program productions. In the past, the TLT has hosted the likes of The Von Trappe Family Singers, Archbishop Fulton J. Sheen and screen star Jane Fonda.
For more information about the Taylor Little Theatre Project, visit hurstalumni.org/taylor or call MIAC at 814-824-2462.
PHOTO: Melissa Salerno, junior interior design major