The Richard and Marilyn Vitek Center Musical Arts will no longer be built as it was announced in 2017 and construction planned for 2019. Instead, a new plan for a musical arts center is being created, and the money donated by the Vitek family will be used elsewhere.
In October 2017, Albion College announced that it would be building a new center specifically for music students. The center would be named after donors Richard Vitek, ’56, and Marilyn Young Vitek, ’56. The donation commitment for the center was the largest donation ever made by an individual or couple in the college’s history up to that time and covered approximately half of the original budget.
The plan for the center was originally born out of a desire expressed by music students to have their own space outside the Goodrich Chapel basement. Financial support was sought and then received by the Viteks.
“The Viteks, none of them majored in music. But they understood the power of music at a liberal arts college,” said Bob Anderson, vice president of alumni relations and development. “They really believed it made better scientists, and [Richard Vitek] was a scientist. That it made for better students in general, and they supported that.
Although the College received enough funding for the plan as it was planned to be built on the corner of Cass Street and Ingham Streetthere were multiple obstacles to the building that prevented the plan as originally envisioned.
Some of these obstacles included logistical issues related to the chosen batch. Leveling the land, for example, would have cost more than $1 million, according to Anderson. Such spending in the budget would have resulted in the center being white-boxed, meaning the rooms are occupancy but the outdoor structure is not. Additionally, the resulting building would likely have been visually unappealing, according to Anderson.
“The old plan was uninspiring,” Anderson said. “While the interior spaces were impressive from an interior point of view, we didn’t manage to make them visually impressive at all, both inside and out. And I think that in the end, it was a project that was destined to be redesigned.
Other obstacles to the project include the short timeline and lack of assessment of current college assets, among others.
Due to planning difficulties, the college decided to redesign the potential space for music students with new ideas, while taking into account lessons learned from previous plans. Some of these potential concepts include creating a space that allows multiple art forms to come together.
“We have a new president, and this president truly believes that artistic expressions can be amplified when you have students together, regardless of their specific artistic interests,” Anderson said. “We are looking at a process from a much more student-centered perspective than in the past. And I think we’re going to end up with a much more exciting project because of that.
While Richard Vitek passed away in 2019, Marilyn Young Vitek is still interested in contributing to the success of Albion students, along with other donors to the original Vitek Center.
“Ms. Vitek, we believe, has found other interests in college that she would like to support and put her money to use as soon as possible and wait for the building,” Anderson said. “So we are working with her and all other donors who would like to realign their donation.”
Instead of fundraising for the center and then composing a plan, as was done with previous plans for the music center, the plans for the new music center will be created before fundraising. This will allow the building process to flow more smoothly and give the college the space needed to ensure the plan is as thoughtful as possible.
According to Anderson, the enthusiasm generated by the previous project and other recent contributions to the music department are positive indications for funding for the new project.
“We received an incredibly generous donation to build the band to over 120 members. A plan is in place for this. We recently received another gift for a concert piano,” Anderson said. “So we see that our donors really appreciate the value that music brings to the student experience at Albion, and so we believe that once we have a really good plan in mind, the fundraising process will go a lot faster.”
Details about the new center, including location, size and estimated construction and completion dates, will likely be released between February and May 2021, according to Anderson.
While that may be a bummer for current music students, Anderson said patience is part of ensuring the college builds space for music students properly and meets needs for a long time.
“Albion builds buildings for 50 years at a time,” Anderson said. “We are looking at other options because we are determined to do something. The project donors want us to build a music building and so most of the donors are going to stay with us because we are doing it the right way which has a lifespan of 50 to 100 years.
While current music students can’t experience the new space on their own, they are still welcome to be part of the creative process, Anderson said.
“We want to do everything we can to give them a great experience. I also personally salute their contribution,” Anderson said. “Feel free to share this with the teachers, feel free to let me know by email or call me and let me know. We are committed to getting it right.