Guest Author - Karen Joyce Williams
Tucked away in the mountainous "Southern Tier" of western New York sits one the state's finest examples of acoustical architecture. On the campus of the State University of New York at Fredonia, the Michael C. Rockefeller Arts Center produces close to 200 live performances in dance, theater and music each year, drawing capacity audiences for its 1,200 seat concert hall from all over the world.
Designed and built in 1969 by world-reknown architect I. M. Pei, the Arts Center was part of a larger recrafting of the entire Fredonia University campus by the State University of New York, bringing the architecture of the sprawling campus in line with its increasing academic importance and its growing student body. Pei, architect of some of the most memorable buildings in the world, focused on transforming the original flat landscape and equally flat and scattered campus buildings into a unified whole that would not only link the college's functions but would also link its students, visitors and vision for the future.
As a result of the international cultural programming at the Art Center, the village of Fredonia and the surrounding area is a great area to explore in short day trips or longer meandering excursions along scenic Route 20. Fredonia sits near of the shore of Lake Erie in Chautauqua County where cultural investment is the norm. There is the Chautauqua Institution, a summer arts center on Lake Erie, the well-traveled Chautauqua Wine Trail, where a traveler may sample some of New York State's best inland wines or the Chautauqua-lake Erie Art Trail, where visitors get to talk with artists in their studios.
The Fredonia Opera House, built in 1891, is another great cultural draw. A yearlong cinema arts program and live music and dance performances grace its stage. In the heart of the village is The White Inn, a grand manor house that is restaurant and hotel in one. Very Victorian and appointed impeccably, it is being restored in 2011 under new management, and in 1930 it was deemed "fit" to be added to Duncan Hines' (of box cake fame) list of "fine family restaurants."
Come explore the Pei-designed Fredonia campus and stay a while. Take in a performance at the Rockefeller Arts Center where the sound is amplified and crystal clear. Sit in any section of the performance space (I've tried the center of the graduated main seating area and the upper balcony) and be swept away by the incredible sound!