University officials, art students rally for funds

by Nathan Whalen

In support of one of the final pieces to the University arts community puzzle, more than 600 people hailed College of Liberal Arts Dean Steve Rosenstone’s rallying cry for a new art building.
Addressing a crowd of students and faculty members crammed into Rarig Center, Rosenstone called for a mass effort to convince state legislators to support funding for a new arts building, the centerpiece to the University’s West Bank Arts Quarter vision.
“There is nothing more powerful in thelegislative process than the voices of the constituents,” Rosenstone said. “Ask them to fund this project because this building is a disgrace. It’s dangerous and it’s wrong.”
Supporters stuffed themselves into the theater to listen to Rosenstone, art department chair Mark Pharis and several students unveil their strategy to drum up legislative support for a new art building.
The proposed $44 million art building, whose funding was recently jeopardized by Gov. Jesse Ventura’s capital budget recommendations earlier this month, would be the focal point of the Arts Quarter.
The quarter will bring the University arts community together into one compact area, allowing more opportunities for cross-disciplinary collaboration and nightly events for the public. The theatre arts and dance, music and art departments will all be housed in the area.
University officials say they need a new building because the current location has deteriorated, adding it is more economical to destroy the building than refurbish it.
“We are trying to get students out of the dangerous 1921 sign building and up into the Arts Quarter where they belong,” Rosenstone said.
Although it has taken the University 40 years to begin efforts to build adequate art facilities, it has been Rosenstone’s priority since he arrived three years ago.
A current state-funding shortfall is what stands between the University and its idealized West Bank vision. The school has $23 million from University and private sources ready to invest, but without state contribution, the project will have to wait two years until the next capital budget request for another funding attempt.
The private money might not be available then, and there are not enough private sources available now to fund the project without state funds, which is similar to the way the $4.3 million Barbara Barker Center for Dance was funded.
“That’s impossible,” Rosenstone said. “That’s why we have a partnership with the people of Minnesota to do it.”
Rosenstone goes to the Legislature on Feb. 14 to testify on the University’s need for a new building.
Blake Govro, principal secretary at CLA External Relations, attended the rally and said organizers acquired more than 500 names for their mailing list to provide people outlets to voice their support during the raucous rally.
“I thought it was awesome,” said Simon Walter-Hansen, mechanical engineering senior, who is taking a pottery class and a sculpting class.
“It’s the most fun I’ve had since I’ve been at the U,” Hansen said as he took a break from the 30 hours a week he spends in the building to attend the rally.

Nathan Whalen covers construction and welcomes comments at [email protected]. He can also be reached at (612) 627-4070 x3236.