KINGSTON — With a last-minute addition of a “mayor’s box” by the architect — he literally scribbled it onto computer renditions as he walked to the podium — Wyoming Seminary officially broke ground Wednesday for the new Allan P. and Marian Sutherland Kirby Center for Creative Arts.
Principal designer Brian Davis of JCJ Architecture made the hasty addition shortly after Kingston Mayor James Haggerty had quipped about a “snafu” in the drawings displayed on easels: “There’s no mayor’s box.”
The two men joined other school officials and project dignitaries for a ceremonial groundbreaking Wednesday afternoon, and they emphasized the “ceremonial.”
Standing in a paved parking lot adjacent to a large swath of cleared land cluttered with signs of construction and already sporting a long ditch, they donned spotless white hard hats and used sparkling silver shovels to toss pre-piled gravel a few inches across the macadam.
But while the groundbreaking may have been a staged event, the speeches clearly came from the heart. During the invocation, the school chaplain, the Rev. Charles Carrick, cited biblical references to art as prayer and said the building would be a space “in which great truths of life are realized.”
Fine and Performing Arts Department Chairman John Vaida said the 34,652-square-foot, two-story brick structure “will be a place to see the wonders of the human spirit in music, dance, theater and art.”
Wyoming Seminary Board of Trustees Chairman Richard Goldberg noted it is just the latest of many expansions and changes, including closing a block of Sprague Avenue to better connect the campus and a “total refurbishing” of the sports stadium.
But it was S. Dillard Kirby, president of the F.M. Kirby Foundation, who provided the most emotional moment. The foundation contributed $7.5 million to the center, and it was a deal inked by Kirby’s father.
“Dad signed onto this project about six months before …” Kirby choked back tears, apologized, and continued. “He signed onto the project about six months before he passed away.”
Kirby praised the project and issued a warning about his father’s current vantage point.
“Don’t take any short cuts in construction, because he has the best view yet,” he said.