The Monttessuy Center for the Arts

A Renaissance for the Arts at AUP

When the library moved into its new home in the Quai d’Orsay Learning Commons, the University repurposed its former location on the rue de Monttessuy as a hub for artistic life on campus, bringing students and faculty together through creative pursuits in a state-of-the-art teaching facility – complete with AUP’s first theater.

The launch of a fine arts major in 2014–15, plus renewed student interest in studying art history in Paris, made for rapid growth of these majors – a collective 270% increase over the five years prior to the renovation.

The time had come to help AUP – ever ascending – to secure the space and services that would give wings to its Department of Art History and Fine Arts, creating dedicated space for the arts on its campus and, in the process, creating its first-ever purpose-built theater.

Celeste M. Schenck Former AUP President

As art history once again took center stage in AUP’s modern curriculum, and fine arts filled an important place in our students’ liberal arts trajectory, faculty needed new, better and expanded studio spaces, storage space for materials and office space in which to receive students and conduct their research. The technology for teaching art history has evolved significantly; students and faculty were both in need of better-equipped classrooms.

The moment had come to open a space dedicated to these disciplines at AUP, complete with wall space for exhibiting student art, two major art studios with high ceilings and natural light, and a 70-seat theater named for AUP parent and former trustee Olivia de Havilland.


The Department of Art History and Fine Arts Comes Home

The move was a homecoming for the Department of Art History and Fine Arts. In the late ’70s, art history classes took place in two classrooms in Monttessuy, where high ceilings could accommodate images from the slide projectors of the day. Sidestepping a move to the Grenelle basement, the department had its next home – along with the infamous top-floor slide room – in Bosquet from 1992 until the building was sold in 2012, during which time the department’s faculty relinquished the projectors in favor of PowerPoint and other modern technologies.

I had the opportunity to tour new and renovated buildings on AUP’s campus during the ’90s alumni reunion in May 2018. Seeing what a difference these well-equipped facilities make to student life reaffirmed for me the importance of supporting such projects.

Roxanne Collins Vanderbilt ’95

The creation of the Pierre and Christina de Labouchere ’86 Art Studio during the 2014 renovation of the Combes Student Life Center, along with the grouping of art history faculty offices and classrooms in that building, brought the arts at AUP back under one roof again, launching the resurgence of student interest in both programs and making the creation of a dedicated facility for the arts essential.


Raising the Roof on The Monttessuy Center for the Arts

An education in the arts, especially in a global institution, teaches the most universal of languages in a world of differences. Our generous donors helped make the study of art history and fine arts a part of each student’s AUP education.


A Theater Honoring Olivia de Havilland

Though the world knows Olivia de Havilland for her exceptional career as an actress, she was also an exceptional friend of The American University of Paris. The mother of an AUP graduate, Benjamin, she was the first woman to serve as a trustee of the University. Olivia encouraged her fellow trustees in the 1960s to support students in a historical moment for AUP and the world. In 1994, in recognition of her film career and long loyalty to the University, she was awarded an honorary degree. She had close friendships with many AUP trustees and members of the American community in France, as well as a number of French Parisians. She regularly welcomed AUP friends to her home in Paris for advice, counsel and best of all, camaraderie extraordinaire. In 2015, she was further recognized with the AUP Presidential Medal of Distinguished Achievement. In short, Olivia was part of the very fabric of AUP from our earliest years until the end of her life and so we named the theater in Monttessuy in loving memory of this extraordinary champion of the University.


Classes of the 90s

Graduates of the 90s joined Roxanne Collins Vanderbilt ’95 and Monica Heslington ’97, who led a decade challenge to fund a classroom in the center, in donating to the Monttessuy campaign. Click here to read Roxanne’s letter of support.


Francesca Weinmann

In honor of the late Professor of Art History Francesca Weinmann, alumni who knew her or took a class with her made donations in her honor. Participating donors are recognized for their contributions on a plaque in the Monttessuy Center for the Arts.