Macalester College, Janet Wallace Fine Arts Center - Performing Arts

Arts Center Breaks Down Silos and Builds Up Community

The Janet Wallace Fine Arts Center anchors the western edge of the Macalester College campus in St. Paul, Minnesota. Built in the 1960s, the structure was in critical need of an update when college officials sought to redesign the complex, breaking down the silos between studio art, theater, and music while upgrading and customizing the spaces needed for each discipline. Because of the tight urban location of the campus, new campus construction must maximize multi-use possibilities to make every space count.

HGA responded with a design for a state-of-the-art visual and performing arts complex anchored by a light-filled, two-story arts commons. The exterior of the newly renovated center establishes an identity for the arts on campus: the facade of the music building features a staccato texture of angled panels that reference the rhythm of musical instruments, while the east side of the studio art building features terracotta louvers that pay homage to clay objects and glazing processes.

Exterior and interior lighting highlight the architectural detailing and activity within.  Throughout the renovated project, large windows connect the activity of the programs within to the bustling campus outside, inviting all to partake in the process of making art.

Phase I: Music

The renovated music building, contains a 318-seat concert hall, dedicated choral and instrument rehearsal spaces, individual practice rooms, and teaching studios. A central gathering space serves all the arts disciplines while providing a new art gallery, classrooms and meeting rooms.

The 318-seat concert hall features an enlarged stage for full orchestra and retractable acoustic towers for smaller ensembles. Support spaces includes a dedicated choral rehearsal room, instrument rehearsal room, small ensemble practice room, art gallery, reference library, and faculty studios and offices.

Phase II: Visual Arts

Phase III: Theater and Dance


St. Paul, Minnesota

Building Type

Learning Spaces, Performing Arts, Visual Arts


99,000 SF

  • 2020 SCUP/AIA-CAE Excellence in Architecture for Rehabilitation, Restoration or Preservation Honorable Mention Award
  • 2016 Minnesota Chapter American Society of Landscape Architects Merit Award (Noguchi Foundation Sculpture Courtyard)
  • 2014 IIDA Northland Chapter, Interior Design FAB Grand Award
  • 2014 IIDA Northland Chapter, Interior Design FAB Honor Award
  • 2013 AIA Minnesota Honor Award
  • 2013 Metal Construction News Overall Winner
  • 2013 Shaw Contract Group Global Honor Award

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