New Crescent Center for Arts and Neuroscience Opens at Trinity College

Building Design Encourages Collaboration and Creativity Across Multiple Disciplines
The Ferris Roadway entrance to CCAN

Hartford, Connecticut, September 14, 2017 – Trinity College has opened its Crescent Center for Arts and Neuroscience (CCAN), a brand-new building located in the south end of campus. As the fall semester gets under way, returning students have been stopping by to see the dramatic change from when they last saw the building during early construction last May. While a few finishing touches are still in process, the majority of the CCAN building is ready to make its debut.

A project launched in spring 2016, CCAN embodies the liberal arts by bridging the fields of neuroscience and the arts and incorporating gathering spaces to encourage collaboration and creativity across multiple disciplines. An 11,000-square-foot building, CCAN is bordered on its south side by Crescent Street, with Ferris Roadway on its north. Its neighboring buildings are the Wiggins Sculpture Studio, the Crescent Street Townhouses, the Gruss Music Center, and Ferris Athletic Center.

Students played a key role in design of the building’s Student Commons area by participating in one of three planning committees that worked closely on the building design with the architects from Payette. The students sought to create a comfortable environment that would accommodate both socializing and studying with friends.

“We felt like the architects were really interested in hearing from students what we wanted, from furniture to color schemes to the amenities that would make the space the most usable and functional for us,” said Alexis Zanger ’19, a member of the Student Commons Committee.

The Student Commons area has quickly become
a popular spot to gather and study.
Students felt that lots of tables for small-group meetings or hanging out would be ideal, and that is exactly what visitors find upon entering the building from its Ferris Roadway entrance. A series of tables with chairs set up for four and others ideal for two-person meetings are ready to host conversation and collaboration. Many of the tables are situated by floor-to-ceiling windows overlooking the Wiggins Sculpture Studio and the walkway leading to the Crescent Street Townhouses.

Students were more engaged with this project, said Payette’s interior designer, Mary Gallager, than she has seen with other building projects she has worked on at colleges. Trinity students wanted to be sure the school colors of blue and gold were incorporated and they participated throughout the design process, including testing out furnishings and checking finished color palettes. “The commons space design is a direct reflection of what Trinity students wanted to see,” Gallagher said.

CCAN is the new home of the Neuroscience Program, a broad interdisciplinary program that integrates biology, chemistry, philosophy, engineering, and psychology. Neuroscience also will continue to use space in the nearby Jacobs Life Sciences (LSC) building, where a key facility for the program is the Loberg Family wet lab.

Assistant Professor of Neuroscience Luis Martinez provided a tour of CCAN’s neuroscience lab facilities, where he will conduct his neuroendocrinology research using rat models of addictive behaviors to study what drives the development and expression of sex differences in drug addiction.

Martinez pointed out task-specific areas that he and other neuroscience researchers are excited to begin using, including a fume hood for working with chemicals and dedicated behavioral testing spaces, noting that precise environmental and safety recommendations were incorporated.

In addition to the Neuroendocrinology Lab, Neuroscience Program spaces at CCAN include:

•    Autism spectrum disorder developmental laboratory

•    Brain explorations laboratory

•    Neuro-computation teaching laboratory

•    Neuroimaging suite with EEG and transcranial doppler equipment

•    Traumatic brain injury cognitive laboratory

•    Seminar room designed for small classes and meetings

Martinez was enthusiastic about the interdisciplinary nature of the building and opportunities for faculty and students to collaborate. “I have never seen a building like this, putting arts and science together. This would be pretty unusual even at a large university,” said Martinez, who completed his postdoctoral training at the University of Minnesota before coming to Trinity last year.

Professor of Fine Arts Pablo Delano leads a class in
the Digital Media Studio at CCAN.

Complementing the research and teaching labs of neuroscience, CCAN’s Arts Creativity Corridor features a student art gallery with a high, open ceiling, flexible track lighting, and uninterrupted white walls. Professor of Fine Arts Pablo Delano described the gallery as “full of light—a very uplifting space.”

Delano is in the process of preparing the gallery’s first exhibition, which will feature work by recent Trinity graduates. All of the artwork, in a variety of media, was created for classes at Trinity and/or for senior thesis projects; the exhibition should be ready to open in October, Delano said.

Besides the art gallery, features of the Arts Creativity Corridor space at CCAN include:

•    Performance studio space with digital projection capability on all four walls

•    Digital media studio

•    Film production space with a permanent green screen wall (where a sound-proof booth soon will be installed)

"The performance space will be very distinctive, cutting-edge—there's nothing like it on campus," said Associate Professor of Theater and Dance Mitchell Polin. "The space is flexible in the best way, with the ability to project on every wall and explore media and mediated performance in ways we haven't previously," Polin said. He noted that students and faculty are excited about opportunities for virtual reality projects using the Oculus platform and for combining live performance with sound and video.

The reach of the Crescent Center for Arts and Neuroscience goes far beyond the building itself. Trinity's neuroscience and arts programs have historically had broad reaches into Hartford through programming that fosters connections with local communities. Whether through Community Learning Initiative (CLI) courses or collaborations with neighborhood schools, or through research partnerships or internships, the Crescent Center for Arts and Neuroscience will serve as a resource to strengthen Trinity’s work with its neighborhood partners while continuing to build academic excellence in the liberal arts for the entire campus community.   

 Written by Kathy Andrews
Photos by
Andrew J. Concatelli