Lenfest Center for the Arts

A Cultural Beacon for Columbia and the Community

The Lenfest Center for the Arts will be a vital epicenter for engagement with the arts: creating conversation and inspiring change.

The Lenfest Center for the Arts will be the second building to open on the University’s Manhattanville campus. It is an arts venue designed for the presentation and creation of art across disciplines, providing a dynamic new space for Columbia University School of the Arts.

It will host exhibitions, performances, screenings, symposia, readings and lectures that present new, global voices and perspectives. The building will also provide a new publicly accessible home for Columbia’s Miriam and Ira D. Wallach Art Gallery, allowing it to become a true community resource, and the Katharina Otto-Bernstein Screening Room, a brand-new, state-of-the-art facility. The building was made possible by a gift from former University Trustee H.F. “Gerry” Lenfest (LAW ’58, HON ’89), an admired patron of the arts who has also served on the boards of Philadelphia’s Museum of Art, the Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Arts and the Curtis Institute of Music.

Lenfest arts building render

A Showcase for Art and Culture

The Lenfest Center for the Arts will serve as a major focal point for engagement in the rich cultural life of Columbia, Harlem and New York City at large. With a range of spaces suited to presentation of work in multiple genres, the Lenfest Center for the Arts presents an unprecedented opportunity to expand partnerships between Columbia University School of the Arts, the University’s Wallach Art Gallery and the diverse, dynamic arts communities that have long defined Harlem’s cultural legacy.

"Home to Ithaca" by Romare Bearden

Design: Multiple Artistic Destinations

Renzo Piano Building Workshop designed the eight-story, 60,000-square-foot structure with Davis Brody Bond, LLP, as executive architect and Body Lawson Associates, a Harlem-based certified Minority Business Enterprise (MBE), as associate architect—the same team that designed the Jerome L. Greene Science Center. The design team utilized innovative structural techniques to achieve high ceilings and large open spaces uninterrupted by columns—critical elements for a performing arts center that cannot be attained with standard I-steel beams. Windows in some of the venues allow for flexibility in controlling natural light, including a skylight on the ceiling of the 8th floor’s flexible presentation space, which features custom lighting and motorized shade tracks. The Lenfest Center for the Arts stands prominently behind the “Small Square” public plaza on West 125th Street between Broadway and 12th Avenue, just west of Columbia’s Jerome L. Greene Science Center.

Learn more architectural facts (PDF) and about the design and construction teams for the Lenfest Center for the Arts.

Carol Becker, Dean of the School of the Arts.
Our goal is to create a welcoming venue where every space can be activated by the work of students, faculty and guest artists in film, theatre, writing and visual arts, opening our doors to new collaborations both across the University and our community, fostering connections to the always vibrant art scene in Harlem and beyond.Carol Becker, Dean of the School of the Arts
Deborah Cullen, Director and Chief Curator of the Wallach Art Gallery

The Katharina Otto-Bernstein Screening Room, a 150-seat, state-of-the-art theater with advanced digital technology and 35mm archival capability.

A flexible performance space, which will showcase thesis productions and support innovation in the performing arts.

An open presentation space, which will host a variety of public programs and events, including readings, symposia, lectures and other educational programs.

The Miriam and Ira D. Wallach Art Gallery, which will move from its location within an academic building on the Morningside campus to a larger, more publicly accessible space.