Jacob Harvey Named Managing Artistic Director of Theaters at Fine Arts Building
Following a comprehensive national search, respected theater director and producer Jacob Harvey has been named the first-ever Managing Artistic Director of the historic theaters at Chicago's Fine Arts Building at 410 S. Michigan Avenue. Property owner Berger Realty Group is leading a projected $3 million+ renovation of the Studebaker Theater and Playhouse Theater at Fine Arts Building to enhance the experiences of theatergoers and producing companies at the venues, an investment that speaks to the company's commitment to historic preservation and belief in the future of the arts in Chicago.
Harvey returns to Chicago, having served as Artistic Director of Chicago's Greenhouse Theater Center from 2016-2018. He most recently worked with Cirque du Soleil and The Works Entertainment as a producer of the world-renowned smash hit The Illusionists on Broadway and tours across the U.S. and internationally.
"Investing in Chicago's arts and culture sector is immensely important to me, especially after the drought of live performance we've experienced over the last year and a half," said Jacob Harvey, Managing Artistic Director of Fine Arts Building. "This building has always been a vital landmark of Chicago's downtown artistic community. By upgrading the Studebaker into a state-of-the-art multidisciplinary performance space and rehabbing the Playhouse into a flexible theatrical event space, we pay homage to the ghosts of artists past with a clear eye into the future. Our aim is to build two vibrant arts spaces that are accessible to local artists and nonprofit organizations, while providing a welcoming and desirable downtown location for out-of-town productions. Whether you're a patron or an artist, you'll find a community here at Fine Arts Building."
In 1898, Fine Arts Building created the historic Studebaker Theater, originally built to house vaudeville performances and later expanded for large productions in the 1920s. In subsequent decades, the Studebaker became known as one of the most important theatrical venues in Chicago, receiving landmark status in 1978. Today, the approximately 600-seat theater hosts nonprofit and touring productions and special events, ranging from Chicago Opera Theater and Chicago Youth Symphony Orchestras to the Chicago International Puppet Theater Festival and a John Waters book tour event.
The historic interior of the Studebaker will be preserved during the current renovation process, while the approximately 400-seat Playhouse Theater is being re-envisioned as a contemporary multidisciplinary arts and event space with a flexible seating format. All renovations are expected to be completed by spring 2022. In-person performances resume at Studebaker Theater in December 2021.
"I believe that now more than ever is the time to invest in the future of the arts in Chicago," said Erica Berger of Berger Realty Group. "Our team is proud to welcome Jacob Harvey as our first Managing Artistic Director of the historic theaters at Fine Arts Building. His experience at the Greenhouse in Chicago, as well as across multiple markets including internationally with Cirque du Soleil, bodes well for our strategy as we explore our market fit and expand our vision for an equitable, accessible, centrally located theater complex in Chicago."
Berger Realty Group is a Chicago-based multigenerational family business focused on restoring iconic, historic properties in the city. The company received a Preservation Excellence Award for Wicker Park's iconic Flat Iron Building in 2020 and is now renovating the historic theaters at Fine Arts Building, as well as updating the building's prime ground-floor restaurant space, which was previously occupied for 59 years by the Artist's Cafe.