A scene from Shakespeare. An outdoor class. A drum circle. A formal reception. A photography exhibition. A string quartet. An improv comedy. There’s a time and place for everything. But, if it has anything to do with the arts, anytime is good at the Barnet Courtyard.

“This is a place for spontaneous arts – impromptu performances that come about organically and that are open to outside collaboration and participation,” says Valerie Morris, dean of the School of the Arts, of the College’s new Barnet Courtyard, which opened in April. “The idea is that you can create and see art all the time in this space.”

Nestled between the Albert Simons Center for the Arts, the John Rivers Communication Museum and the Sottile Theatre, the Barnet Courtyard is named for Bill and Valerie Manatis Barnet ’84, who donated $100,000 for the School of the Arts to build an outdoor, sustainable space with a connection to the arts.

“We hope that our donation will be an extension of the Marion and Wayland H. Cato Jr. Center for the Arts – a place for everything from quiet relaxation and reflection to artistic creation and expression,” says Valerie Barnet, who majored in art history and teaches high school theater in Spartanburg, S.C., where she and her husband helped establish the seven-acre Barnet Park, home to the arts-focused Chapman Cultural Center.

Designed as a mini–Barnet Park, the Barnet Courtyard has an open feel and serpentine flow to it and features a stained concrete performance pad, a sculpture garden, benches and plenty of green space.

“It’s a very flexible space,” says Morris. “It gives us an option for event use – formal gatherings, small concerts and theater performances, that kind of thing. But it’s mostly for the students’ use, for informal gatherings. We want the students to come here and create.

“We also want it to be a community space,” Morris continues, explaining that the garden – unlike the old, more concealed courtyard that was in its
place – opens up onto George Street, making it accessible and inviting to passersby. “It’s available to everyone and anyone – any day, anytime.”

And, of course, any art.