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Making room for more art

Making room for more art

Discover the sound reasoning behind quirky architectural embellishments.

The first Fort Lewis College campus buildings rose from the Rim above downtown Durango in the early 1950s. The College’s initial footprint was small, and classroom space was at a premium. Quirky architectural embellishments, like the accordion-shaped west wall of the Theatre Hall, remain a curiosity to this day but the reasoning behind them is sound.

Hammered together in 1958 at a cost of $210,167.68 ($2,167,214.21 in 2022 dollars), Theatre Hall sits in the middle of campus. In the early days, Theatre Hall was known as the Fine Arts Building and served as the vanguard of Campus’s eastern perimeter. It housed courses in the humanities: archaeology, music, dramatics, sculpture, drawing, and painting, to name a few.

The dual-purpose arts classroom was designed as a studio and an exhibition gallery for students and faculty. The accordion- style westward-facing wall provides an angular aesthetic to the building's exterior while adding around 30% more vertical square footage inside the studio. The extra walls meant more artwork could be displayed.

A decade after its construction, music and art programs moved into new buildings. The former funky art studio evolved from an innovative exhibit hall into the Fort Lewis Museum, a tiny precursor to the Center of Southwest Studies. Today, the space celebrates exuberant practices and performances as the campus’s dance studio. Theatre Hall is used almost exclusively by the newly launched Performing Arts Department, featuring ensemble musical productions, guest artists, classes, and student works that inspire the community beyond these fabled walls.

The theatre hall in 1964 with yellow flowers blooming, a hill behind, and blue skies.
The folded west wall of Theatre Hall was designed to add more gallery space inside the building, circa 1964.
The theatre hall with lilies and pokers blooming in the foreground.
The Theatre Hall hosts Performing Arts productions, like Cabaret.
A black and white image of glass display cases inside a building.
Yesterday's Fort Lewis Museum is...
A dance studio with wooden floors, large windows, and trees outside.'s dance studio.
Students and a professor in a painting studio with canvases on easels.
Students create in the studio of the former Fine Arts Building (Theatre Hall), circa 1965.
A black and white image of a full orchestra on a stage with the conductor conducting.
The FLC Orchestra performs at the Mainstage Theatre in 1965.
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