The Paradigm Performing Art Center of Boston features four state-of-the-art venues for performing and visual arts. As home to the Massachusetts Theater Lab, Paradigm is dedicated to producing cutting-edge new work. Its arena-style theater is one of the few in the city, and its monthly jazz night draws music lovers from across the area. The Paradigm is a premiere destination on Boston Harbor –– but it's not real.

The Paradigm Performing Art Center of Boston is the capstone project of the Sophomore Scholars in Residence (SSIR) class "Opening Nights: The Impact of Arts Organizations in America." As their final project, the 15 students in the class were charged with working together to develop an arts organization of their choice using assigned criteria.

It was the culmination of two semesters spent examining the world of arts management. Rather than rely on a textbook, the class studied the arts in action: It visited downtown Richmond's First Fridays ArtWalk; attended the opening of the city's new performing arts center, CenterStage; spent five days in New York attending shows and meeting with leaders of arts organizations; and visited the Kennedy Center in Washington, D.C.

Experiential learning is a hallmark of the University's SSIR programs, as is its living-learning component. All of the students in the class lived together for the year in Lakeview Hall.

"I really wanted to introduce people to the field of arts management," explains David Howson, who taught the class. "It is not really a field you know about in high school. … It is the behind-the-behind the scenes of the arts."

Surprisingly, the class was not filled with theater majors, but attracted students with a wide variety of interests –– from economics and international studies to biochemistry and finance. "As I built the class I really wanted different perspectives and students who didn't just want to work in the field but who wanted to get an appreciation of the field," he says. "We may not be turning out people who work in the arts, but they are all future patrons, donors, or even trustees."

Anna Rued, '12, is a biochemistry major who applied to the program because of her love of theater. As a science major, she missed having a connection to the arts. "While taking this class showed me I don't want to be on the managerial side, I always want to be involved in the arts," she says. "This class has shown me ways I can be involved as a volunteer or working behind the scenes."

Stephen Jones, '12, got interested in Opening Nights when he was applying for a position as a resident assistant last year. As a freshman, he was a member of the Spinning your Web living-learning community and was eager to replicate that experience.

"I think living and learning has been the best thing that has happened to me at Richmond so far," he said. "The environment in Lakeview is very special."

The class spent a lot of time talking about current events, and it was not unusual for the discussions to continue in the lounge at Lakeview.

"Being able to walk across the hall meet with fellow presenters to work on the project was really nice," Rued says. "It adds a different dynamic to the hall. You get to know people in an academic setting as well as a social one."

The fall class trip to New York was also a significant class bonding experience, says Alex Wiles, '12. "The five-day trip was such an incredible shared experience that it created a community," she says.

"I know when I am looking back on college when I am however old, that this experience is one of those things I will remember most fondly. The Richmond experience is incredible to begin with. That opportunities like [SSIR] exist is phenomenal… It will be a defining moment of my four-year experience."