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Spelman Receives $2 Million Gift From Leonard & Louise Riggio for New Center for Innovation & the Arts Share a Spelman College Press Release

For Immediate Release

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Jazmyn Burton 
(404) 270-5892
Twitter: @spelmanmedia

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ATLANTA (December 18, 2019) – A new gift will place Spelman College closer to breaking ground on a new academic facility designed to bring the arts, technology and innovation into close collaboration with one another.

Leonard Riggio, founder and former chairman of Barnes & Noble, and his wife Louise have made a $2 million gift toward the construction of the Center for Innovation & the Arts.  The Center will be home to a community of innovators, collaborators, artists, filmmakers, dancers, musicians, curators, art historians and scientists.

Longstanding patrons of educational initiatives that support creativity, the Riggios were the first benefactors to make a $500,000 gift to the center in 2016. At the same time, they also made a $500,000 award that established the Riggio Scholars Program, which supports students who have demonstrated stellar academic achievement and shown a commitment to community service.

“Investments in Spelman like the one made by the Riggio family are vital as we push toward developing an artistic epicenter for the integration of liberal arts with technology, entrepreneurship and innovation,” said Mary Schmidt Campbell, Ph.D., president of Spelman. “This dynamic new learning environment will encourage our students to master the creative arts, while providing curricular opportunities for innovative solutions to persistent urban challenges.”

To date, the Riggios have gifted a total of $2.5 million in support of the approximately 85,000 square foot building, which will be constructed on the site of a current Spelman parking lot located on the corner of Westview Drive and Lee Street.

“Louise and I are pleased to be able to help Spelman close in on their goal to build this important new center,” said Mr. Riggio. “Long one of America’s best academic institutions, Spelman is again on the forefront of innovation.”

The Center will contain four main components –The Front Porch, The Forum, The Innovation Lab, and The Hive – each designed to create a unique learning environment that offers opportunities for public and campus-wide collaboration.

Center.For.Innovation.Arts.SchematicThe building’s ground level, public facing Front Porch will house a second gallery for the College’s Museum of Fine Art, a dance performance studio, a purpose-built, multi-user, high-tech, digital black box theatre for performance innovation and artistic exploration, and a small café/retail space that will be open to the public. In addition, existing green space around the Center, which is now off limits to the public, will be open for community use.

The Forum, an open and interactive gathering spot for Spelman students, faculty, and staff will house The Innovation Lab area. The hub of the building, The Innovation Lab will be a collection of maker spaces, fabrication, and assembly shops, several digital media and gaming labs, and a multi-purpose classroom/event space that promotes innovation across all disciplines. The hub will eventually serve as the site for teaching the College’s innovation curriculum, which is currently in development.

The Hive will encompass the final two floors and accommodate all of the College’s art programs, including Art & Visual Culture, Art History & Curatorial Studies, Photography, Documentary Filmmaking, Music, Dance and Theatre.

This double-height atrium will function as the principal instructional space for Spelman’s arts programs and will contain practice, rehearsal and performance spaces designed to encourage the exchange of ideas.

After the initial Riggio contribution to the Center, the College received a $30 million gift for the new building from Spelman Trustee Ronda Stryker and her spouse William Johnston. The Stryker gift is the largest gift from a living donor to the College in the history of Spelman.

The total cost of the new facility, which includes an operating endowment and state of the art technology, is $86 million. Spelman has raised more than one-third of the total cost of the Center.

Additional philanthropic work supported by the Riggio’s involves numerous higher education institutions, including The New School where they fund the Writing and Democracy Program. The Riggios were also instrumental in the building of Dia:Beacon, one of the largest contemporary art museums in the world, and have served as benefactors for an array of public art initiatives including Chinati, The Spiral Getty, and Michael Heizer’s City Project.

About Spelman College
Founded in 1881, Spelman College is a leading liberal arts college widely recognized as the global leader in the education of women of African descent. Located in Atlanta, the College’s picturesque campus is home to 2,100 students. Spelman is the country's leading producer of Black women who complete Ph.D.s in science, technology, engineering and math (STEM). The College’s status is confirmed by U.S. News and World Report, which ranked Spelman No. 57 among all liberal arts colleges, No. 22 for undergraduate teaching and No. 6 for both innovation and social mobility among liberal arts colleges, and No. 1 for the 13th year among historically Black colleges and universities. The Wall Street Journal ranked the College No. 3, nationally, in terms of student satisfaction. Recent initiatives include a designation by the Department of Defense as a Center of Excellence for Minority Women in STEM, a Gender and Sexuality Studies Institute, the first endowed queer studies chair at an HBCU, and a program to increase the number of Black women Ph.D.s in economics. New majors have been added, including documentary filmmaking and photography, and partnerships have been established with MIT’s Media Lab, the Broad Institute and the Army Research Lab for artificial intelligence and machine learning. Outstanding alumnae include Children’s Defense Fund founder Marian Wright Edelman, Starbucks Group President and COO Rosalind Brewer, political leader Stacey Abrams, former Acting Surgeon General and Spelman’s first alumna president Audrey Forbes Manley, actress and producer Latanya Richardson Jackson, global bioinformatics geneticist Janina Jeff and authors Pearl Cleage and Tayari Jones. For more information, visit




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