Though it’s one of the largest programs in the school, the visual arts department is housed in a bland and ill-suited area of campus.
Stark. Dirty. Crowded. Unaccommodating.
Unfortunately, these things describe the space assigned to the Arts and Visual Communication department.
Taking a walk through the Gunther Trades fourth and fifth floors is a surprisingly uninspiring experience. There are dents and marks on the walls, stains in the carpets and a bountiful amount of florescent lighting.
Yet the faculty and students of the art department deal with it.
“Can you learn? Sure, you make do,” said Don Seegmiller, associate professor and coordinator of the Illustration program. “Is it ideal? No.”
The problem is the same, whether they are coping with it or not. With 871 students enrolled in fall 2009, Illustration is the biggest department within the School of the Arts and does not have the space or facilities adequate to house the growing program’s increasing needs.
For example, last year the Art department’s gallery space on the fourth floor was converted into much-needed practice studios for Music majors.
While things like that may seem a triumph for one department, it’s discouraging to the other.
“This bothered students,” said Seegmiller. “We lost what little gallery space we had here.”
Addressing the needs of two departments at odds for square footage is difficult, especially at a time when the entire university is staggering under the weight of an increased number of enrolled students. It could be said for every department that they need more space and class sections.
“A lot of [the problem] is growing pains. … It’s hard to find space. If we need to add a class, we can’t because there’s nowhere to hold it,” said Seegmiller.
What’s especially frustrating for the AVC department is that the space was never intended to be used for art classrooms. There is sparse natural lighting and an overabundance of florescent lighting which is harsh and inappropriate for painting or illustrating.
In at least one of the painting and illustrating rooms, the department disconnected several of the florescent tubes and installed a softer lighting source.
In addition to the lighting, the general care of the rooms is often neglected. Some of the floors are carpeted, including the floor of a main painting classroom.
Maintaining the carpet becomes impossible, especially when the undersized room is congested with easels, horses (a kind of bench a painter will sit upon) and tools, while the counters are employed with harboring wet paintings. According to Seegmiller, this makes it difficult to really clean these classrooms more than once a semester, during term breaks.
“It’s just so packed and tight, there’s not a lot you can do in here,” said Seegmiller. “We need student space, real working space.”
This space would include studios in which BFA students could have additional classes, work and leave their awkward or bulky equipment and tools.
The university’s proposed master plan offers at least one gallery for the AVC department in the future Performing Arts building, but no concrete plan has been made for the department itself.
Being the fifth largest program in the school, falling behind Management, Aviation, Behavioral Science and Elementary Education, interest has shown that the department deserves improved facilities, which should be expected of a university program.