U officials unveil design for new art building

Brad Ellingson

Despite a long struggle with swarming birds and scampering rodents in their classrooms, students and faculty in the art department have every reason to smile these days.

University officials unveiled the design for a $42.2 million art building Friday. In the state-of-the-art facility, students will no longer have to worry about adverse conditions in the classroom.

“Birds flying through classrooms making their contribution to the pieces of artwork in progress is something which is a common occurrence,” said Steven Rosenstone, dean of the College of Liberal Arts.

Students and faculty rallied for a new building by calling and writing to legislators.

“Three years ago under President Yudof’s leadership, students, faculty and alumni in this community united to begin a campaign to make a new building a reality,” Rosenstone said.

The Legislature responded by appropriating $18.5 million in 2000 and $730,000 in 1998 for planning. With an estimated $8 million investment from private funds, the University will come up with $15 million for the project.

Garth Rockcastle, a principal in Meyer Sherer and Rockcastle architects of Minneapolis, designed the new building, to be located at 21st Avenue South and Fourth Street South on the West Bank.

“It seems like our job in the process is so much easier, it’s a privilege frankly to be able to take all this good will and resources and contribute to a process of change,” said Rockcastle.

The new art building will complement the Rarig Center, Ferguson Hall, Ted Mann Concert Hall and Barbara Barker Center for Dance, shaping what University officials call the West Bank Arts Quarter.

This area will host music, theater, dance and art events in a four-square-block area on the West Bank.

“Legislators supported the project because they understood how important it is for our students to have a safe, functional building for their education,” Rosenstone said.

“I think they also saw the wisdom of putting together that last piece of the puzzle to create what is known now as the West Bank Arts Quarter,” he said.

The new building will feature labs, studios, darkrooms, classrooms and exhibition spaces.

University officials said out of 65 CLA majors, art is the eighth most popular.

In addition, enrollment has increased by 21 percent in the last decade.

More than 5,000 students from an array of disciplines enroll in art classes annually.

“Art is a window, and an important window through which we view human condition,” said University President Mark Yudof.

Faculty and students plan to start using the art building in Fall 2003.

“We anticipate taking possession of the building in May 2003 with the first classes beginning in September of that year,” said Mark Pharis, chairman of the art department.

“This really is a joyous occasion for the University of Minnesota, but not only for the University, it’s a joyous occasion for the state of Minnesota,” Yudof said.

Brad Ellingson covers construction and facilities and welcomes comments at [email protected]