Ent Center for the Arts update: Renovations, plans for expansion

May 9, 2016

Rachel Librach
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Most students take classes in a traditional classroom in buildings such as Columbine and Dwire Hall.

Many visual art students take classes in the Fine Arts Building, a module located near lot 173 created eight years ago for art students as a temporary classroom.

According to vice chancellor for Campus Planning and Facilities Management Gary Reynolds, phase one of the Ent Center is to move most of the performing arts department into the new building.

The visual arts department will occupy part of the Ent Center in phase two, according to Reynolds.

“We were moving parts of each department in phase one and phase two is meant to bring the rest of the programs to the Ent Center, both visual and performing arts.”

“We have a room being built in the Ent Center that would have been just a general classroom designed to be a normal class, but we made changes to the plans and are now fitting it to support the visual arts program.”

Reynolds said there is no set schedule set for phase two.

“It all depends how and when we can move the performing art programs over,” Reynolds said.

Matt Barton, associate professor & co-director of the Visual Arts program, said that picking up and moving a classroom is not a simple task. Funding needs to be acquired first and, depending on where the school’s priorities are, that takes time.

“Student housing has been a main priority for the last five years. The sculpture building was actually upgraded from a couple of trailers on campus to this larger conex,” said Barton.

“But upgrades and new buildings like the Ent Center takes time; there’s no unlimited amounts of funding for this project either.”

Barton mentioned that the current fine arts building will experience major upgrades this summer and may even be shut down temporarily in order to complete the renovation.

“I’m pumped about the upgrades for the building. We’re getting a 3D printer in the next month. We just got a plasma cutter. We’re going to get a beautiful dust collection system that all the tools will be connected to,” he said.

“This will allow us to expand our curriculum and introduce more projects that we could not previously do without a ventilation system,” Barton added.

Kirsten Merrick, a senior majoring in visual arts, said she is grateful for the space but would like to see the long-awaited renovations.

“It really is nice to have this space, but I would love to see it expand,” she said. “It was kind of a bummer when the wind blew out the window last month and it would be nice to have ventilation and AC, but I really am so happy we have this.”

Claire Rau, a senior instructor in the visual art program, said that while there have been gradual improvements to the condition of the classroom, and there have not yet been any safety concerns, there are still ongoing problems such as rodents finding their way in.

“Because this building is older, there are holes at the base of the walls which allow rodents to come in every once in a while; once a bull snake found its way into the classroom,” said Rau.

“But this summer, the renovations will seal up those holes and use the space where the window was blown out to install the saw dust ventilation system for the wood shop,” she said.

Barton said that he sees great potential in these next few years to expand the visual arts department. He also emphasized that the work produced by the students in the sculpture room is not hindered by the condition of the conex.

“The future is looking better than ever for our department. I am excited to get back into the newly renovated sculpture building next fall and for the ENT Center to open. It’s not the prettiest but it serves us well. We make wonderful things down there and it is a bit of a sanctuary,” he said in an email.

“Our goal is to create a closer community between the visual and performing arts departments and have them all be able to interact and see each other on a regular basis,” said Reynolds.