Polishing a Gem
Fine Arts Center to get a makeover

An $18 million component in the Campaign for Calvin College is the renovation and expansion of the venerable Fine Arts Center, which, since its opening in 1966, has played host to an estimated 20,000 events.

Myriad projects are planned to spruce up the center, including visible renovations such as improved classrooms, new seats and stage in the auditorium, and improved offices for the English and music departments, as well as less visible changes such as an updated heating, ventilation and air conditioning system.

There also will be sparkling additions: a lobby and atrium, a central campus art gallery, a recital hall, and an exterior intended to give passers-by a glimpse into the life and activity inside the Fine Arts Center.

Fine Arts Center Renovation and Addition includes:

  • updated heating, ventilation and air conditioning systems
  • improved data communications and sound systems
  • lighting and dimming systems will be improved; the distinctive “ceiling of stars” will be maintained, but incandescent light bulbs will be replaced by more energy-efficient bulbs
  • refurbished seating
  • improved handicap accessibility
  • re-conditioned organ
  • additional office space for the English and music departments.
  • updated band and orchestra practice room and choral practice room
  • renovated exterior
  • new lobby and atrium
  • new 240-seat recital hall
  • new central campus art gallery
  • more practice rooms and teaching studios
  • new ticket sales office
  • expanded backstage area with equipment storage, instrument storage and dressing rooms
  • updated landscaping and patio area

When the construction is complete, the aging center will have had a complete makeover.

For Calvin alum Sid Jansma, Jr., getting involved in that makeover was appealing for both personal and professional reasons.

Of the center he said simply: “It’s a pivotal building on Calvin’s campus. It’s home to critical academic departments, and it gets a lot of outside-the-campus traffic. It’s a meeting venue, a big gathering place for the college. That’s exciting.”

The opportunity to improve a building that for 42 years has served the Calvin and greater Grand Rapids communities tirelessly was one Jansma could not pass up.

Perhaps that’s because the core of his business—he is the CEO of Wolverine Gas and Oil Corp., a business begun by his father in 1948—is finding new things in the old. Around the United States, Wolverine is involved in exploring new reserves of oil and gas beneath the earth’s crust.

Now, through the Fine Arts Center renovation project, Jansma, who began his work at Wolverine as a 16-year-old doing maintenance on the company’s oil wells, is partnering with Calvin to find the new in the old.

“It’s getting tired,” Jansma said simply of the center. “And it’s got to be made more energy-efficient. The idea of taking something that was there and that needed work and making it into something state-of-the-art was really appealing to me. When [Calvin President] Gaylen [Byker] first approached me, I thought, ‘What a great opportunity.’”

The opportunity also gave Jansma a chance to reconnect with his Calvin student experience, one that saw him begin singing in the Radio Choir as a college freshman in 1961. He also sang in the Oratorio Society at Calvin and was president of the society as a student.

“I loved music,” he said, “and I still do.”

Jansma, who graduated from Calvin with a degree in economics and a minor in philosophy before attending the University of Michigan for a master’s degree, also loves what he calls the God-given responsibility to be a good steward of everything with which he has been entrusted, including time, talents and all other resources. For him it’s pretty basic.

“When I leave here, I will take nothing with me. I’ve asked God to help me be a steward of what I’ve got,” he said. “It’s a responsibility I believe we all have as Christians, regardless of what we’ve been given.”

Deuteronomy 8:18 is a key verse for Jansma: “But remember the Lord your God, for it is he who gives you the ability to produce wealth, and so confirms his covenant, which he swore to your ancestors, as it is today.”

Indeed that idea of the covenant—both God’s covenant with His people and the way Christians then have a responsibility to covenant together, to look out for one another—has been a lifelong guiding principle for Jansma.

“The covenant began at creation,” he said, “and got further articulated throughout the Bible. And as New Testament Christians, we have God continuing to reach His hand out to us in Christ. I love the concept that we’re all part of a family with each other. We pay attention to each other, and we help people if it’s within our power to do so.”

That’s why the Fine Arts Center, once renovated, will carry the name Covenant. 

“I think Covenant Fine Arts Center will be a great testimony to the world as to what this principle we believe in so strongly is all about,” he said. “It gives us a chance as believers to testify as to what we’re all about.”

And the covenant, of course, is at the heart of a Calvin education.

“We are training our college kids in the further knowledge of God, embracing every discipline there is in the world,” he said. “I love Kuyper’s line about Christ claiming every square inch of this world. I believe that with all my heart.”