On Nov. 2, Steppenwolf Theatre Company opened its new 50,000-square-foot theater building and education facility, the Liz and Eric Lefkofsky Arts and Education Center.
Designed by architect Gordon Gill FAIA of Adrian Smith + Gordon Gill Architecture, with theater design and acoustics by Charcoalblue and construction by Norcon, the expanded Steppenwolf campus aims to offer opportunities for creative expression, social exchange, unparalleled accessibility and arts-driven learning for Chicago youth in The Loft, Steppenwolf's first-ever dedicated education space. The expanded Steppenwolf campus also features bright new lobbies and two new full-service bars for socializing that fc STUDIO, inc. designed.
Opening to the public this month as in-person performances return to Steppenwolf, the Liz and Eric Lefkofsky Arts and Education Center is the largest new permanent cultural asset to open in the City of Chicago in 2021. The new $54-million building is part of Steppenwolf's multi-phase $73-million Building on Excellence expansion campaign.
At the heart of Steppenwolf's new center is an intimate and state-of-the-art 400-seat theater in the round, with theater design and acoustics by Charcoalblue. Named the Ensemble Theater in Honor of Helen Zell, this performance venue will open to audiences with the Steppenwolf for Young Adults' world-premiere adaptation of Eve L. Ewing's 1919 in February 2022. That will be followed by a grand public opening of the theater with ensemble member Yasen Peyankov's adaptation of Anton Chekhov's Seagull, featuring an all-ensemble cast, in April-June 2022.
The Loft encompasses the entire fourth floor of the new building. Steppenwolf was founded more than 45 years ago by a circle of students who craved a space to call their own. The Arts and Education Center continues and amplifies that vision, increasing the reach of Steppenwolf's education programming from 20,000 to 30,000 students annually.
In addition, Chicago-based artist and actor Tony Fitzpatrick created a mural for the center's exterior. Measuring 12 feet high by 76 feet long, the new mural pays homage to the leadership of the company's late Artistic Director Martha Lavey, highlighting the growth of Steppenwolf over more than four decades and its future.