CalArts is adding a Wild Beast to its menagerie

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Apparently the California Institute of the Arts has a penchant for naming its performing arts venues after animals.

First came REDCAT. (OK, it’s technically the Roy and Edna Disney/CalArts Theater at Walt Disney Concert Hall, but who actually calls it that?) Now the cutting-edge arts school is looking into the jaws of the Wild Beast, a new music pavilion soon to open on the school’s Valencia campus.


CalArts recently announced a gift of $500,000 from the S. Mark Taper Foundation that will help close the funding gap for the facility, which has an estimated cost of $4 million and was designed by Culver City’s Hodgetts + Fung architecture firm. The school has about $600,000 left to raise toward the ongoing construction. CalArts President Steven D. Lavine said the building will have a “soft” opening for students and staff in late March, with a grand opening planned for fall. The performers are yet to be announced.

The 3,200-square-foot, free-standing structure will serve as a home for classrooms and combined indoor-outdoor performance space that can be opened on one side, allowing audiences to sit in the glen surrounding the building. When closed, the hall can seat 80 to 100 audience members; when open, more than 600 will be able to gather for the performance. “The model in my mind for it is the Shed at Tanglewood,” Lavine said, referring to the open-air facility at the summer home of the Boston Symphony in Lenox, Mass.

When the Wild Beast is open, a folding glass awning will help to project sound into the audience. The roof and one wall represent a continuous curved form sheathed in copper-colored shingles.

Why the need for a new facility?

“The core demand is that our Herb Alpert School of Music has doubled in size in the last decade; when we have guest artists, there is no place for them to perform,” Lavine said. “And the second reason was to allow enough space for the general public to attend — we have been reluctant to go out and tell people what is available because there might not be enough seating for them.”


The building takes its name from a quote from an essay by contemporary composer Morton Feldman: “I am interested in how the wild beast lives in the jungle, not in the zoo,” his metaphor for the nature of creative energy.

Architect Craig Hodgetts said that his team sought to create the effect of flowing fabric with a building that was “more lyrical, softer” than the massive, geometric lines of the CalArts main building. “There’s less testosterone,” he joked. “It’s a fun little thing.”

-- Diane Haithman

A few more images and a construction photo: