A gift of $17 million from the Audrey and Martin Gruss Foundation will fund the expansion of the Gruss Center of Visual Arts to accommodate a creative design center and maker space. The expanded facility will be renamed the Gruss Center for Art and Design. Martin Gruss ’60 is a trustee emeritus of the School.
Lawrenceville has been studying best practices for development of a STEAM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts and Mathematics) facility and related programming since fall 2016, when the Board of Trustees adopted a new strategic plan, “Lawrenceville 20/20,” that calls for “energizing academic culture” through experiential learning. On-site surveys of corporate innovation hubs and visits to Stanford University’s d.School and similar facilities at Yale and MIT helped to shape the School’s thinking for a creative design and maker space.
The expansion will include a clean fabrication lab, digital design rooms, and a large flexible project room for ideation and rapid prototyping. The facility will also feature wood and metal shops equipped with CNC routers, a welding bay, milling machines, and laser cutters, along with traditional manual arts tools. Collaborative workstations will support team projects. These enhancements will be additive to the existing Gruss Center, which will continue to house gallery, collection, and fine arts studio space.
“We are very excited about this project and extremely grateful to Audrey and Martin Gruss for what is truly a visionary investment,” said Head Master Steve Murray H’55 ’65 ’16 P’16 ’21. “STEAM education is more than a trend – it is preparation for the way our students will need to think in the 21st century.
“We are graduating students into a world where there are no simple solutions, and they will need to have a range of intellectual and practical skills in their toolbox,” Murray added. “We aim to produce graduates who are inventive, adaptable, and able to attack an issue from multiple perspectives, who see solutions and possibilities when confronting a problem.”
The expansion will transform the facade of the Gruss Center with floor-to-ceiling glass panels, creating a cutting-edge workspace book-ended by the existing art gallery at one end and current studio space at the other (see front-facing image above). The transparent design is a deliberate strategy to invite students inside to use the space at will, whether for coursework or personal explorations.
In advance of construction, the School has named Rex Brodie to the new position of Director of Design and Fabrication, with responsibility for overseeing the fabrication labs in the Center, working with students on projects, and collaborating with faculty on relevant curricular initiatives. Brodie brings more than 30 years of experience in art and design to this position, including 20 years of instructional experience in independent schools, with specialties in fine woodworking, metal sculpting, digital fabrication and robotics. He will take an active role as the expansion project progresses to ensure the optimum fit of form and function.
The School expects to break ground on the project in summer 2018 and anticipates construction to continue through the following year. Sasaki, an internationally-recognized planning and architectural firm, is the designer for the expansion.