School, or canvas?

To design some of the windows for the new Cooperative Arts & Humanities High School on College Street, architect Cesar Pelli ARC ’78 took pictures of tree leaves, said Thomas Smith, program manager for Gilbane Program Management, the company running the project. The photos were then blown up to three times their size, Smith said, and the images were transposed in an intricate process as a light-filtering design on the windows.

“This is a form of art, and it is an art school,” Smith said. “You will feel like you are walking into the canvas, walking into the art when you walk into the school.”

New Haven officials on Tuesday led a hard-hat tour of the new Cooperative Arts & Humanities High School, which is set to reopen by the end of 2008.
Daniel Carvalho
New Haven officials on Tuesday led a hard-hat tour of the new Cooperative Arts & Humanities High School, which is set to reopen by the end of 2008.

During a hard-hat tour of the construction site Tuesday, officials stressed the prominence the arts will have in the new school, thanks to its design, purpose and connection to the community. The tour, given by Smith and Mark Hesselgrave, a senior associate from the firm Pelli Clarke Pelli Architects, was meant to welcome community members and local business owners to the magnet school and thank them for their support, Smith and Hesselgrave said.

The 450 students and faculty members are scheduled to move into the school by the end of 2008 from their current location on Orange Street, Weisselberg said. In the new location, the student body — which is 65 percent from New Haven and 35 percent from neighboring suburbs, and is selected by lottery — will gradually grow to 650.

To support its arts program, the school will have two theater spaces: a black-box theater seating 120 and a main theater seating 350, which has a full fly space. It will also house a film studies lecture hall, seating 80, and other dance, music, visual-arts and film workshops. Keith Cunningham, the school’s art director, said while there are no specific plans, the school is talking with Yale, the International Festival of Arts and Ideas and the New Haven Arts Council about sharing their new facilities.

Deputy Economic Development Administrator Christine Bonanno ’01 said school administrators hope to encourage partnerships between students and nearby businesses. Many are eyeing the Shubert Theater as a possible partner.

“It’s a great new neighbor,” said Sheri Kaplan, general manager of the Shubert Theater, which is one block away from the site. “There are so many opportunities for us to partner with the Board of Education.”

Kaplan mentioned possibly having related internships and working with students to show them the technical side of the theater.

Construction officials at the tour conceded that some of the original plans — including one for a rooftop terrace — had to be scaled back because of budgetary concerns. The School Construction Program, which is responsible for New Haven Public Schools’ renovations, will submit a request for an additional $1 million from the Citywide School Building Committee on Thursday to add the finishing touches.

Ward 7 Alderwoman Frances “Bitsie” Clark said she expects the school will soon enough not have to worry about funding.

“I fully envision there will be five-time Academy Award winners who will graduate from this school and will be able to endow it,” Clark said.

The project is part of the city’s School Construction Project, an ongoing renovation of New Haven schools.

The school will also have 3,000 square feet of retail space — room for one or two vendors, Smith said, which Cunningham said he hopes will be related to the arts emphasis of the school. Currently, it is not known which retail vendors will occupy those spots, but School Construction Coordinator Susan Weisselberg said they cannot be food vendors, since the food service for the school said that would be a conflict.

Evelyn Cooperstock of Cooper’s Dress Shop, a 47-year-old establishment on College Street, said she is excited about the new Coop High School being built across the street, and would even consider renting one of the spaces when her own building is torn down to make way for development at the end of this year, were it not for limited parking.

“It will bring in a lot of people,” she said during the hard-hat tour. “Nice people.”

Cooperstock was not always this positive about the development, Smith said. She threatened to close her doors at one point, but changed her mind once the building started to take shape, she said.

“The community around here has been phenomenal,” Weisselberg said.

Claire Criscuolo, of nearby Claire’s Corner Copia, said during the tour that she has not considered the possibility of new businesses, but said she is excited about the opportunities the school will provide for the students.

“We will waste less talent,” she said.

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