The Athey Center for Performance and Research at Palmer Auditorium is a hub of innovation, encouraging performance and dialogue on the critical issues of our time. The revitalized Athey Center promotes pioneering artistic production and research, attracts world-renowned artists-in-residence, fosters cross-disciplinary teaching and scholarship and helps to advance the work of Connections, Conn’s reinvention of liberal arts education. The renovated Athey Center ensures that the arts remain central to Conn’s liberal arts experience, a tradition that has earned the College’s arts programs national and international prominence.
The $23 million project was funded through gifts to the College, including a $10 million grant from the Sherman Fairchild Foundation and a $10 million gift from Nancy Marshall Athey ’72 and her husband, Preston Athey, longtime supporters of the College and its arts programs. The renovation was led by Ennead Architects, a New York City-based architectural firm that specializes in performance spaces. Their design capitalized on the historic nature of Palmer to bring out various elements from its past, such as enhancing the Art Deco metalwork on the exterior of the building and restoring some of the original lighting fixtures, which now hold a more prominent place in the lobbies.
Palmer Auditorium was visionary when it opened in 1939 under the leadership of President Katharine Blunt—a 1,300-seat hall, designed by William Lamb, principal architect of the Empire State Building, built to serve not just the campus but the surrounding community. Over the years, it has played host to numerous prominent speakers and performers, including the New York Philharmonic, the Boston Symphony Orchestra, Martha Graham, José Limón, Merce Cunningham, Paul Taylor, Alvin Ailey, Dizzy Gillespie, Yo-Yo Ma, Billy Joel, Eleanor Roosevelt, Hillary Clinton, Frank Lloyd Wright, Toni Morrison and others.