Macalester College, Janet Wallace Fine Arts Center Phase III - Theater and Dance

Building Campus Community Through Arts

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 terra cotta 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

Phase II: Visual Arts

Phase III: Theater and Dance

Macalester’s Theater and Dance building provides optimal classroom, rehearsal, and performance spaces that prioritize the arts as part of a liberal arts curriculum. An overriding theme in the new three-level building is efficient use of space to facilitate a wide variety of learning, teaching, and performance styles. Each teaching and rehearsal space was designed to maximize the flexibility of the type of performance accommodated within, from dance to multi-media productions.

Additionally, the expansion relocated key spaces of the Theater and Dance Department closer to the Music Building and Arts Commons, creating greater opportunities for cross-disciplinary work. Connected by skyway to the college’s science building, the second level is devoted to general active learning classrooms, demonstrating the College’s commitment to a curriculum that breaks down traditional discipline silos.


St. Paul, MN

Building Type

Learning Spaces, Performing Arts


  • 2020 SCUP/AIA-CAE Excellence in Architecture for Rehabilitation, Restoration or Preservation Honorable Mention Award
  • 2019 Top Projects, Finance & Commerce

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Macalester Theater

See how the Macalester Theater can easily be changed to suit the needs of various productions.