Ms. Rutter spoke to us about the journey that led to the Reach, the day-to-day challenges of such a large undertaking, and her hopes for the future.
“I don’t know what my speeches will be about after the Reach is open,” she said. It could get boring, she was told. “Yeah. Exactly. Looking forward to that.”
Were you aware of the scope of the Reach project when you took the job?
No. In the interview, there was a passing comment, “Oh, and we’re doing this project, an education center across the street. Have you ever been involved with a capital project?” And I said, “Well, actually, yes. In Seattle, we built a concert hall.”
I’ll tell you, when I was interviewing for the Seattle job, it was exactly the same thing. They asked, “Can you run the orchestra? Are you a good leader?” and, in passing, “Oh, by the way, there’s this idea to build a concert hall.” And then it becomes the focal point of your work for the first five years that you’re there.
Did you have a Day One list, things you knew you wanted to accomplish?
Before I started, the internal project manager said, “February 9, you’ve got to be there. We need your help. We need you to sign off on the design drawing.” And I said, “OK. I’m happy to. But send me the program: Why are we embarking on this project? And what is it we’re trying to achieve?” And they sent me a piece of paper that listed five spaces and basically, the size of the space. That was it.
So I said, “We’ve got to have a little bit of time to think about this.” I put a pause on the design. It was a really magnificent opportunity because this was February 2014. I wasn’t even supposed to start until September. Over the course of three months, we had a series of meetings. It was a great opportunity for me to get to know my staff and to really talk about what we needed to do, how we needed to approach the work—what was good about the center, what didn’t work so well. The whole aspect of it being friendly, welcoming, beautiful, light-filled, easily navigable, those are obvious things. But the in-depth conversation that we had involved thinking about the future—why are we building a new building just to lock the front door and have rehearsals and workshops? Really, we needed to throw the doors open. That’s where all of the arts are headed, to this more participatory, immersive experience.