November 24, 2020

Master plan may relocate art building

By Megan Favignano and Sherrod Tunstall

One option of the proposed master plan calls for the art building to be moved to the current location of the University Center (UC).

Madeline Brenner, senior art major, said the art department needs a new or updated space, but she wants some aspects of the current building to remain.

“As an artist you need free range to mess stuff up. I like the fact that if you get paint on the floor — it’s OK,” Brenner said.

Robin Assner, associate art professor, said the current VAS building is loved and students have made it their home. She said, recently, a conceptual drawing class wrote on the floor and walls of the VAS as part of a project.

“I love feeling that it’s OK to make a mess,” Assner said. “I love the new East Academic Building but I would be afraid that I would drop paint on the floor.”

Art students call the art building home; however, Brenner and Assner agree that students want a new space.

“We’ve grown out of the building that we have now,” Assner said. “The facilities themselves we’ve kind of outgrown.”

Assner said the darkroom, which is only five years old, still floods and the drawing studio is booked with classes for most of the day. The art department uses classrooms in Sverdrup Hall for lecture courses and Assner said her photography students don’t have a studio to shoot in.

She said the art department’s philosophy has outgrown the VAS building, too.

“It’s not just I’m a painter so I’m going to paint,” Assner said. “(Currently) just having that cross interdisciplinary action is hard.”

The proposed master plan places the art, music and dance departments together in the Interdisciplinary Arts Building. Steve Strang, senior project manager, said there may be more collaboration between the departments if they shared a building.

“One of the goals (of the proposed master plan) was to create opportunities for cross functional interactions through larger meeting spaces and interdisciplinary buildings,” Strang said.

Strang said as an engineer, he sees a trend in building bigger and cross-functional spaces. The current VAS building is 17,882 square feet. The Hunt house is 2,470 square feet, Old Orchard dance studio is 7,774 square foot and the Thompson house is 7,361 square feet. Together, there is approximately 35,487 square feet of art facilities and spaces on campus. Strang said the new Interdisciplinary Arts Building will be approximately 80,000 square feet (compared to the EAB’s 90,000 square feet).

The Visual Arts Studio is a one-story building. Strang said a multiple-floor building would use Webster’s limited space more efficiently.
It hasn’t been decided if Webster will build a new art building or renovate the UC to fit its needs. Strang said Webster wants energy-efficient buildings and it may be cheaper in the long run to build a new building.

Strang said the current VAS was a high school at one point. The Thompson Music House was a residence.

“We’ve done our best with those buildings to convert them, but they were never designed from the ground up to be music or art buildings. When we design something from the ground up, it will be better.

Assner said she would like classrooms that can transition from studio space into a lecture classroom. She said having the technology to be able to have a slide lecture in class could only benefit the students.

“By mimicking the more interdisciplinary aspect of an art building, it mimics more of the art world. You don’t go out there and just make paintings because you’re a painter,” Assner said. “That (interdisciplinary element) can only emulate the real world in a small way.”

Brenner said performance and visual arts could come together to enhance an art piece. Brenner’s graduating piece is collaboration between Brenner and an audio major. Another student helped Brenner with music composition for the piece as well.

“It allows for more opportunity to experiment with those different mediums,” Brenner said.

Click here to read about the proposed recreational facility.

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