College coins new acronym for arts center

MIDDLEBURY — When people head out for a night’s entertainment at Burlington’s Flynn Center for the Performing Arts, they go to “the Flynn.” Farther east, when audiences attend events at the Hopkins Center for the Arts at Dartmouth College, they go to “the Hop.”
And at Middlebury College, when we catch brilliant student acting in the Seeler Studio Theater or marvel at world-class chamber music in Robison Hall or thrill at performances in the Dance Theatre, we go to “the MAC.”
Sure, the building’s full name is the “Kevin P. Mahaney ’84 Center for the Arts,” and Middlebury College likes it that way, but with 14 syllables it’s a bit of a mouthful. The college understands that.
So you can just call it the MAC. In fact, the college is asking you, please, to use the building’s new nickname, which is an acronym for Mahaney Arts Center.
“The major thing we did here was get rid of the ‘for’ and the ‘the,’” said MAC director Liza Sacheli, who announced the new nickname last month. “We kept the important stuff, though.”
This isn’t the MAC’s first nickname.
When the building opened in 1992 it was called the Center for the Arts. People called it the CFA.
In 2007 the CFA was renamed for Kevin Mahaney and the acronym became MCA — Mahaney Center for the Arts.
But by then “CFA” had stuck.
Further confusing the issue for many people is that MAC actually stands for more than one thing. It describes not only the building itself, but also the organization that curates and promotes the performing arts inside the building. MAC is also home to four academic arts programs — theater, dance, music and art history — which have classrooms and faculty offices onsite.
In other words, we go to the MAC for MAC events.
One thing MAC is not, however, is the museum.
The Middlebury College Museum of Art (MCMA) — whose collection of several thousand objects ranges from antiquities to contemporary art and includes distinguished collections of Asian art, photography, 19th-century European and American sculpture, and contemporary prints — is neither in nor of the MAC.
“I sometimes think of the two organizations as conjoined twins,” Sacheli said. “The museum has its own building envelope and organization. It shares a lobby with the MAC,” she added, but it has its own separate entry.
With the help of marketing student interns, Sacheli plans to broadcast the new nickname as far and as widely as possible, especially on social media. She also wants to make sure performing arts patrons know where they are when they get there.
“This building has a lot of windows,” she said, some of them inside the building. “They show that the arts are a process, not just a product. On your way to a performance, if you look through these windows you can see for yourself the messiness of learning and of creative works in progress.”
Soon, you’ll also see 11-by-15-inch window clings announcing that “The CFA is now the MAC.”
Hopeful as she is that the MAC’s new nickname will provide some institutional clarity, Sacheli has a more important message regarding her organization, one that requires constant reiteration:
“We’re open for business for the entire community,” she said.
Every year the MAC hosts more than 300 events that are open to off-campus folks.
Year over year, the audience aggregates break down pretty evenly into three groups, she added: students; faculty, staff and alumni; and community members.
“We’re really happy with those numbers,” Sacheli said. “We love that mix.”
Two upcoming MAC events will appeal especially to the non-college community, she pointed out.
On Feb. 22, the Christian Sands Trio will bring to Robison Hall its fresh take on the entire language of jazz music.
“Jazz always scores high in our community surveys,” Sacheli said. “It’s always had a broad appeal here.”
Pianist Sands has been nominated for five Grammy Awards.
On Feb. 28 and Mar. 1, the Ragamala Dance Company will present “Sacred Earth” in the Dance Theatre.
Inspired by Kolam sand painting and Warli tribal art, as well as the Tamil Sangam literature of India, “Sacred Earth” is “a singular vision of the beautiful, fragile relationship between nature and man.”
“The dancers pay special attention to where their bodies are positioned,” Sacheli said. “Whenever I watch it I’m always struck by the intricate hand movements. It’s as if their hands are themselves dancers.”
Both of these events will be hot tickets, Sacheli said.
For more information about the MAC visit middlebury.edu/arts/mac.
Reach Christopher Ross at [email protected].

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