Montgomery County Community College (MCCC) has announced the re-opening of the Science Center on its Blue Bell Campus. Renovated and modernized over a period of four years, the 118,689-square-foot building houses MCCC’s science, engineering and mathematics programs, as well as a state-of-the-art, 563-seat theater. The theater is the centerpiece of the recently launched Montco Cultural Center, which encompasses all of MCCC’s arts and culture programming.
“I am immensely proud and energized to celebrate the official reopening of our Science Center and invite students, faculty, staff and community members to experience all that it offers,” said Dr. Victoria L. Bastecki-Perez, MCCC President. “From cutting-edge learning environments to world-class performance spaces, this building represents the next generation of Montco’s commitment to provide holistic and transformative opportunities for all.”
About the Science Center
First opened in 1972, the Science Center has been completely reinvented to provide students hands-on access to the latest science and engineering technology, including robotic arms and 3D printers. Office suites have also been retrofitted into student hubs, where classmates can engage with and learn from one another in spaces specifically designed for collaboration and camaraderie.
MCCC’s Sustainability Lab provides experiential learning opportunities for students in sustainable practices such as hydroponics and aquaponics. Students also grow plants, protists and other aquatic life in the Sustainability Lab to support STEM biology lab work. Applying the engineering skills learned in the redesigned engineering labs, students have designed and built a hydrogen-fuel powered concept vehicle, INNOVA, that they used to compete in the 2023 Shell Eco-Marathon competition. The vehicle and the second-place award they earned in their category will be on display during the tours of the building.
The renovation supports the growth and development of these programs to provide students with the knowledge and skills required for high-priority occupations in STEM fields that offer family-sustaining wages.
“Our goal has always been to set our students up for success by fully preparing them for whatever comes next – be it the workforce or continuing education – and this new Science Center does that and then some,” said James Bretz, Ph.D., Dean of Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics at MCCC. “Through an intentional redesign process, we’ve breathed new life into this building and provided a plethora of spaces for students and faculty alike to explore and succeed both inside and outside of the classroom.”
About the Theater at Montco Cultural Center
The anchor of the Science Center is the Theater at Montco Cultural Center, a 563-seat, technologically advanced performing arts space. Designed by Spillman-Farmer Architects and outfitted with industry-leading acoustic, audio, rigging, lighting and video systems by the internationally renowned Walters-Storyk Design Group, the theater’s immersive technology allows audiences to see and feel the arts in a whole new way. The space will operate as a multi-purpose venue, capable of hosting live theatrical performances, concerts, lectures and film screenings.
“The theater at Montco Cultural Center is the crown jewel of the Science Center and certainly not something you’d expect to see in the middle of a community college campus,” said Dr. Celeste M. Schwartz, Vice President of Pottstown Campus, Information Technology and Institutional Effectiveness at MCCC. “Even the tiniest details have been given careful consideration to ensure audiences are provided with the most captivating, awe-inspiring experiences. For our friends and neighbors in Montgomery County, our theater will provide Broadway-caliber experiences you’d expect from major performance spaces in Philadelphia without ever having to drive into the city.”
The redesigned theater has increased its seating capacity from 398 to 563, with 500 seats in the orchestra and 63 seats included in a brand-new balcony section. Left- and right-side sky boxes contain 24 seats in each, and a VIP section contains 15 seats. A larger stage can accommodate a wider variety of performances. The venue also features new and improved seating for audience members, a new lobby and bathrooms, and increased wheelchair accessibility. In addition to serving as a performance destination for the Philadelphia region, the theater will provide real-world learning experiences for students.
“We made a point of equipping the theater with top-notch gear – equipment most students wouldn’t have access to until well into their careers,” said David Ivory, Director of Sound Recording and Music Technology at MCCC. “For example, the live mixing console is a DIGICO SD7T, which is an extremely contemporary system specifically designed for sound mixing in live theater situations. Along with our video, lighting and rigging systems, our students will be engaging in unparalleled experiential learning that rivals that of many four-year universities in our area.”
The theater’s inaugural performance – a presentation by the Lao Tizer Band – will take place on Wednesday, September 20, to kick off Montco Jazz Fest.
Additional performances celebrating MCCC’s past, present and future will be hosted on September 21, September 22 and September 23. On September 21 at 6:30 p.m., MCCC will honor its past, recognizing two influential African American women, Judith Willoughby, and Helen Haynes, who made substantial contributions to the growth of the College’s arts and culture. The audience also will enjoy a performance by the Philadelphia Boys Choir and Elegance String Quartet. On September 22, at 7 p.m., MCCC will honor the present with free performances by its faculty, staff, students and the community. On September 23, at 7 p.m., MCCC will honor the future with a special concert by the Femmes of Rock, accompanied by MCCC’s Music Assistant Professor Michael Kelly on bass.
About Montco Cultural Center
The theater is the centerpiece of the Montco Cultural Center, MCCC’s new platform encompassing all arts and culture venues, series and programming. Designed as an interconnected campus, the Cultural Center features – in addition to the mainstage theater – intimate black box theaters and fine art galleries on MCCC’s campuses in Blue Bell and Pottstown, community spaces, and learning environments.
“Our aim is for the Montco Cultural Center to be a gamechanger in the Philadelphia region, inviting people to experience the thrill and wonder of live music, theater, dance, art and ideas in whole new ways,” said Brent Woods, Senior Director of Arts and Culture at MCCC. “I’m so proud of the way we’ve reimagined the modern cultural experience and have made exceptional theatrical performances and fine arts more accessible and affordable for all. We have some very exciting artists coming to Montco in the near future, and I cannot wait to welcome lovers of the arts from across the region to spend a night – or more – with us at Montco Cultural Center.”
Montco Cultural Center’s Lively Arts Series is celebrating 40 years of delivering artistic talent through programming that ensures a diverse representation of backgrounds and cultures. Highlights of the 2023-2024 anniversary season include:
- NEA Jazz Master and five-time GRAMMY® Winner Dianne Reeves
- Martha Redbone Roots Project
- Vinicius Cantuaria Quartet
- SF JAZZ Collective: 20th Anniversary Celebration
For a complete list of performances and to purchase tickets, visit mc3.edu/livelyarts.