Arts Center Architect on Staying Grounded After Success


An artist’s rendering of the Writers Theatre in Glencoe, Illinois.
An artist’s rendering of the Writers Theatre in Glencoe, Illinois. (Studio Gang)
Jeanne Gang
Jeanne Gang (Studio Gang)

Jeanne Gang, the Chicago architect designing the almost $99 million makeover of the Arkansas Arts Center in Little Rock, says the best compliment she ever received was from the Wall Street Journal theater critic about the Writers Theatre in Glencoe, Illinois (Gang is from Belvidere, Illinois).

“Our client was showing the theater to theater people and critics — in his field, not in the architecture field — and the theater critic who writes for the Wall Street Journal said something like “This is the best new theater that’s been built in the country in the last 50 years.” (What the WSJ’s Terry Teachout actually wrote was that the space “is the finest piece of theatrical construction to be built in this country in the past decade.” Close enough.)

To know that the building was working for theater professionals “was really nice to hear,” Gang said.

As for whether the recognition she has received — MacArthur Fellow, Time 100, etc. — has changed the way she does her job, Gang said, “Honestly, being from the Midwest, your parents never let you think too much of yourself.”