Simon Fraser University’s brand-spanking-new Contemporary Arts school is envisioned as a place where dancers and filmmakers will rub shoulders with visual artists and theatre students.

“It’s quite a unique department,” said Owen Underhill, director of SFU Contemporary Arts and SFU Woodward’s, which opened earlier this month.

“Dance, film, music, theatre and visual art are all under one department. Students experience a lot of collaboration and this is the vision behind the building.”

There are six public performance venues, including the 420-seat, dividable Fei and Milton Wong Experimental Theatre, as well as dance and theatre studios, a soundstage and film-production spaces.

The school, which is home to 400 full-time students, is holding an open house this weekend. Guided tours and a slate of performances are planned (visit

Michael Boucher, director of cultural development and programming at SFU Woodward’s, said the whole building is designed to lead to a “confluence” of ideas.

“This will be a place where we bring in the leading edge of professionals from around the world,” Boucher said.

He noted that the project was about 11 years in the making and was possible because of the height lenience that allowed the developer to push the Woodward’s tower to 44 storeys.

Owen said the new facility is a far cry from their previous location atop Burnaby Mountain.

Those facilities, which included dilapidated portables, were ranked second-worst in the province, he added.

“A lot of great work happened there, but this is light years apart from where we came from. We went from the bottom to the top.”