A new home for the performing arts at Western Illinois University and beyond

Macomb, IL, USA

The Western Illinois University Center for Performing Arts will be a new cultural center for the university, and a regional venue for the city of Macomb, and greater Western Illinois area. The building will host music, dance, theater and a variety of university functions and events for the Macomb community.  

proscenium theater seats
"The design, a cubic composition of glazed boxes engaged within the building’s fabric, is both timeless and expresses the functions of the building while maintaining a human-scale presence relative to its adjacent campus/residential community."
— Mitchell Hirsch, AIA, LEED AP

A landmark for creative expression and growth 

The 100,000-square-foot building is split into two wings, knitted together by an expansive, gallery lobby. Each wing features cantilevered forms encased in a light-colored brick facade. The building's eastern and western wings extend graciously, showcasing the dance studios and jazz rehearsal room through large windows, each illuminated in a unique hue. The smaller north wing contains a studio theater, along with a greenroom and costume shop, dressing rooms and administrative offices. The wing to the south includes a proscenium theater, large and small rehearsal rooms for dance and music, and technical and performer support spaces for the proscenium theater. This segment further houses an array of technical and performer support spaces vital for the smooth orchestration of performances. The Center will directly connect to Browne Hall, which contains department offices, classrooms and the Hainline Theatre.  

Aerial of concept massing

Building connections and community 

The Center for Performing Arts will unify the performance and instruction spaces of the College of Fine Arts and Communications, joining music, theater and dance programs from disparate buildings into one set of spaces. The building is designed not only to inspire but to serve as a bustling nexus for students and faculty during the day, while seamlessly transitioning into an elegant gathering place for performances in the evening. The Center for Performing Arts will also serve as a home of the arts for local community and regional performances. A building of and for its community, the Center's terrazzo floor is part of the state’s Art in Architecture program and was a collaboration between the artist, WIU and the state of Illinois. 

“The Center for Performing Arts represents the heart of this region.”
— Dean Billy T. Clow

Creating memorable public space 

The design reweaves the fabric of this part of the campus to create open space and quadrangles that become defined gathering spaces for students, performers and artists alike, as well as outdoor performances. The building’s placement near existing buildings defines three other outdoor public spaces: a new arts quad between Browne and Memorial halls; a quad that joins Tillman, Memorial and Simpkins halls, and an open field that addresses the community on Western Avenue.  

More About the Project

Project Team

Principal Collaborators

  • Architect of Record: Cannon Design
  • Structural Engineer: Thornton Tomasetti
  • MEP: AEI
  • Theater Planning: Theater Projects Consultants
  • Acoustic Design: Kirkegaard

Project Information

  • Location: Macomb, IL
  • Client: Western Illinois University
  • Size: 100,000 sq. Ft. / 9,290 sq. M.
  • Completion: 2025 expected
  • Certification: LEED Silver
  • Firm Role: Design Architect