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Interlochen Center for the Arts (National High School Orchestra Camp)

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National High School Orchestra Camp
1928–1981, Alden B. Dow, and others; 1991 and later, Sasaki and Associates, planners. 4000 MI 137 South, 1 mile south of Interlochen
  • Kresge Auditorium (Roger Funk)
  • Kresge Auditorium (Roger Funk)
  • (Photograph by Balthazar Korab)

Interlochen Center for the Arts is a national summer music camp for boys and girls that was founded in 1928 and expanded after World War II, and a college preparatory creative arts academy established in 1962. The camp was founded by Joseph E. Maddy (1891–1966), a music teacher at the University of Michigan, and Thaddeus P. Giddings (1868–?), supervisor of music in the Minneapolis schools, and with help from Detroit businessman Willis Pennington. Interlochen expanded in 1962 to include the arts academy. Today 445 students are enrolled at the arts academy and 2,100 students from throughout the United States, Puerto Rico, and more than forty countries attend the camp.

The campus comprises 440 buildings sited on 1,200 acres nestled in a pine and hardwood forest between Green Lake (Lake Wahbekanetta) and Duck Lake (Lake Wahbekaness). The west portion of the campus is in Interlochen State Park. Only 25 percent of the campus has been developed; the remaining is preserved as natural lands. The campus is arranged with the boys camp, the girls camp, Penn Colony, clusters of studios and practice huts, and clusters of faculty houses all supporting the core of newer educational buildings.

The indigenous stone and wood recreational camp buildings grouped along dirt paths informed the development of the campus. From 1958 until his death in 1983, Dow planned the expansion of the campus, respecting the earlier vernacular campus and its extraordinary natural environment. As required for an academic institution in this northern climate, winterized permanent classrooms, library, dormitories, and performing arts buildings were added to the original buildings and concert bowls of the summer camp and the Maddy Administration Building of 1952. Dow placed new buildings outward from the core, extending the fabric of the campus farther from the lakeshores, where the summer enclaves were sited, into the woodland. He designed many of the arts academy buildings and added to others, employing local materials, concrete block, and poured concrete. The auditoriums—Kresge, Corson, Interlochen Bowl, and Dendrinos Chapel/Recital Hall—are his centerpiece buildings, together with those for science, language, and liberal arts. The buildings were funded by the Herbert H. and Grace A. Dow, C. S. Mott, S. S. Kresge, and Eli Lilly foundations.

In Kresge Auditorium (1948–1950, 1964) Dow transformed and enlarged Kresge Assembly Hall, an outdoor performance arena, to seat 4,000 beneath a huge, sheltering roof with glimpses of Green Lake beyond the stage. The seating area of another auditorium, the rustic outdoor Interlochen Bowl (1928), constructed in a natural depression overlooking Green Lake, was rehabilitated to plans of George McConkey in 2002. Corson Auditorium (now Grand Traverse Performing Arts Center, 1972–1975) seats 1,000. Before the auditorium is Dow Plaza. Michael P. Dendrinos Chapel/Recital Hall (1981) is nearby. Dow arranged the three domed academy buildings for the sciences, language arts, and library (Dow Science Building, the C. S. Mott Language Arts Building, and the Liberal Arts Building, 1962, 1963, 1967, respectively) off an enclosed and heated linear concourse that serves both as a passageway and exhibit area.

Since 1991, when it updated the master plan for music, theater, and visual arts, Sasaki and Associates has reviewed proposed construction activities in consideration of land use, infrastructure, and building aesthetic. Among recent buildings are the Herbert H. and Barbara C. Dow Center for Visual Arts (2008), the Aaron and Helen L. DeRoy Center for Film Studies (2006), and the Writing House (2002), all by Cornerstone Architects.

Writing Credits

Kathryn Bishop Eckert



Kathryn Bishop Eckert, "Interlochen Center for the Arts (National High School Orchestra Camp)", [Interlochen, Michigan], SAH Archipedia, eds. Gabrielle Esperdy and Karen Kingsley, Charlottesville: UVaP, 2012—,

Print Source

Cover: Buildings of Michigan

Buildings of Michigan, Kathryn Bishop Eckert. Charlottesville: University of Virginia Press, 2012, 428-431.

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