New art building important for the state

I am writing this letter in response to what happened in the House Capital Investment Committee on March 13, and the effect the committee’s decision has on the new art building on the University of Minnesota’s Twin Cities Campus. The committee recommended only $2 million to be used for “planning.” The University needs a total of $21 million (less than half the total cost) from the Legislature this year if they are to actually have this building finished by the year 2002.
There are many reasons I feel it is necessary to write this letter. First, the University does not need money for planning; that was taken care of in 1998 when the Legislature gave the University a grant for $730,000 for the planning, with the intent that groundbreaking could begin in the year 2000. In addition, the University has already hired an architectural firm that has a good start on the blueprints for the new building. There is absolutely no point in taking two more years to plan a building that is already planned. It is redundant and a waste of taxpayers’ money — not to mention it is an insult to the intelligence of all Minnesotans and it is a delay tactic.
I personally find the House Capital Investment Committee’s decision completely insulting, both intellectually, as I have stated before, and personally. I am disgusted with the fact that a group of people who were voted into office by the people of Minnesota can have so little concern for the health and safety of over 5,000 Minnesotans annually. The only justification I can come up with is that these representatives of the state of Minnesota are just thinking of each of these 5,000 people as a number, and not someone’s child, parent, sibling, spouse, loved one, etc.
The current building does not just affect the people directly involved with the building, but it branches off into a tree of people who are affected one way or another by this lack of concern.
Here are some additional reasons why we need full funding now:
Students and staff would continue to be at risk for another four years in a 79-year-old building. This building has many hazards, including Occupational Safety and Health Administration violations such as noncompliance of fire and life-safety codes. Also, there are serious ventilation and security problems, not to mention the noisy and overcrowded classrooms.
Students with disabilities will continue to not have access to the building for an additional four years.
Waiting two more years could increase the cost of construction by approximately $5 million.
The private contributions, totalling $8 million, are contingent on complete funding for the building this year.
Not only is the new art building important to the students and staff of the current building, but it will also affect the economic industry of Minnesota. The art industry contributes more than $1 billion per year to the economy of the entire state. This new art building will not only educate future audiences, supporters and leaders in the Minnesota art community, but the building will also be a part of the unique West Bank Arts Quarter. The new art building will be the center of the quarter, where all the arts — music, dance and visual — can come together in a creative, multicultural environment.
There are so many negative things that can be said about the current art building; however, I would like to expand on more of the positive aspects of the new building. Even though I will not personally benefit from the new building because I graduate this year, I can still envision the positive effects the building will have on future students. I know this building will also positively affect the reputation of the University, which in turn will reflect on Minnesota as a state. The current studio art program already has a great faculty. They are a unique blend of extremely talented artists/professors.
Trust me — no studio art student, be it a graduate or an undergraduate, stays at the University for the facilities they have to offer. It is the faculty that draws in talented students from around Minnesota, the United States and around the world. I can envision the greatness of this program once it is known not just for it’s faculty, but also for the amazing artistic environment the University can offer its students.
By building this building now and completing the Arts Quarter, students will be immersed in a supportive, positive, creative environment, which really is a necessity in the years full of discovery and doubt that make up the true college experience. In addition, the new Arts Quarter will make it much more possible for interdisciplinary collaborations, which will in turn make the arts in Minnesota even stronger.
For many years the state of Minnesota has been one of the leading states in the country for education. I think is would be a great tragedy to start letting Minnesota fall behind and lose it’s reputation as a progressive state. By supporting full funding for the new art building, Minnesotans are supporting not just the “quality of life” and the arts, but the economic future of the state.
Melissa Frankman is a senior in the Department of Art. Send comments to [email protected].