The Louis S. & Molly B. Wolk Foundation has made a $1.5 million commitment to the University of Rochester and its Eastman School of Music to support the renovation and expansion of Eastman Theatre. In recognition of the Foundation’s support, the atrium in the new addition being built next to the Theatre will be named Wolk Atrium.
Founded in the late 1980s, the Wolk Foundation is named for Louis Wolk, a prominent Rochester real estate entrepreneur and civic philanthropist, and his wife, Molly, who was a volunteer in community organizations, especially the Genesee Hospital. The foundation supports educational, cultural, healthcare, and social programs in the Rochester area.
“The Wolk Foundation has provided leadership support for key University projects and programs over many years,” said University of Rochester President Joel Seligman. “We are deeply grateful for this most recent gift, which is vital to the completion of George Eastman’s original vision for the Eastman School of Music campus. It is fitting that this magnificent atrium — which will be a gateway to the arts for our entire community — will bear the Wolk name.”
The building addition to Eastman Theatre is part of the Eastman School’s $46.9 million project which featured major enhancements to the Eastman Theatre’s interior last year, including box seating in Kodak Hall and expansion of the lobby. Kodak Hall at Eastman Theatre is the performance home of the Eastman School and the Rochester Philharmonic Orchestra, which has been a co-collaborator on the project.
Marvin L. Wolk, finance chair and treasurer of the Louis S. & Molly B. Wolk Foundation, said, “I was very enthusiastic upon learning about the expansion project of the Eastman Theatre downtown. It is such a grand landmark. I have many fond memories of the Eastman Theatre dating back to the 1950s. Temple B’rith Kodesh held their High Holidays Days services there, and my brother, sister, and I and my three sons had our Brighton High School graduation commencements there also. Ironically, the original ‘Wolk Brothers’ automobile dealership was diagonally across from the Theatre on Stillson Street. And of course, I would be remiss if I didn’t mention the wonderful events at Eastman, including the Rochester Philharmonic Orchestra, that were enjoyed by me, my family, and friends.
“I’m proud that the Louis S. and Molly B. Wolk Foundation will be a component of the new Eastman Theatre expansion project. It truly is a crown jewel within the Rochester community. I can only hope that others in the community will find a way to also help support this magnificent expansion project,” Wolk said.
The Wolk Atrium is a six-story, 73-foot-high space highlighted by a 19-foot chandelier suspended from the center of the skylight apex. This striking, light-reflecting sculpture, by renowned glass artist Dale Chihuly, was commissioned through an anonymous gift. The atrium’s limestone walls hold glass and wood panel accents and its 45-by-50-foot floor is ceramic tile. Other highlights surrounding this grand space include a carpeted staircase and bridge, a new Rochester Philharmonic Orchestra box office, and a Theatre Shop. Located between Kodak Hall in Eastman Theatre and Hatch Recital Hall in the new building, the Wolk Atrium will provide an airy, light-filled gathering space for patrons before and after concerts.
In addition to the 222-seat Hatch Recital Hall, the new building will house a rehearsal hall to accommodate large ensembles, teaching studios for Eastman faculty members, and a recording and media control room.
“All of us at Eastman are grateful for the Wolk Foundation’s commitment to this historic project, which will address critical performance and rehearsal needs for students, ensure Eastman’s future as a world-class learning center, and strengthen ‘The Eastman Advantage’ hallmarks of artistry, scholarship, leadership, and community engagement,” said Eastman School of Music Dean Douglas Lowry.
Eastman Theatre will be closed this summer so that connections can be made between the Theatre and the new building on the orchestra, mezzanine, and balcony levels. Other work inside the theatre includes the construction of a café on the orchestra level adjacent to the inner lobby/Wegman Family Gallery, and new lighting and painting of the existing restrooms. The Theatre will reopen in September, prior to the Rochester Philharmonic Orchestra’s concert season, which begins on Sept. 30. Fundraising efforts will continue leading up to the formal opening of the new wing in late fall.
The new building will be finished in November of this year. The Eastman School will hold a celebration in December to mark the opening of the new building and the completion of its theatre renovation and expansion project.
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