Construction begins on Richmond Center for Visual Arts
May 20, 2005
KALAMAZOO--"Oh happy day," was the sentiment voiced by College of Fine Arts Dean Margaret Merrion to members of the Western Michigan University and Kalamazoo communities as a crowd of more than 200 gathered for the May 12 groundbreaking of the James W. and Lois I. Richmond Center for Visual Arts.
Merrion opened her remarks with the phrase and used it again as she introduced each of five other speakers during the brief ceremony. They included James Richmond, who spoke on behalf of his wife and himself, President Judith Bailey, Trustee Ken Miller, Phil VanderWeg, director of the School of Art, and architect Carl Roehling of SmithGroup.
The Richmonds, longtime Kalamazoo residents and WMU alumni, made a $2.5 million gift toward construction of the new center. In his comments, Richmond said they were able to make a gift of that size because they each had well-paying careers, and they were able to get good jobs because of their WMU educations. Lois Richmond is a former assistant vice president at Bronson Methodist Hospital. James Richmond was a senior vice president with Stryker Corp.
"So now we've come full circle," Richmond said. "Time to pay back."
VanderWeg laid out the history of the School of Art and its challenge for the future by introducing a sculpture he created to commemorate the event. The sculpture featured a shovel embedded in a work that represented the media used by artists over the years. It came with a "Sword-in-the-Stone" challenge issued by VanderWeg to extract the shovel and move the school into a bright new future after more than 40 years of "temporary" housing in Sangren Hall and other campus locations.
Two large exhibition spaces within the center will be named for other major donors: the Albertine Monroe Brown Gallery for faculty and the Eleanor R. and Robert A. DeVries Student Art Gallery. Kalamazoo's Irving S. Gilmore Foundation also has made a major gift to the project.
The new 45,000-square-foot facility was described by architect Roehling as "a vessel that brings together light, art and people." It will be located on the Fountain Plaza between the Dalton Center and the Miller Auditorium parking ramp and will be connected to both by enclosed walkways. The new building, which will take about 18 months to complete, will be used primarily as exhibition space and will be connected to the south wing of Kohrman Hall, which eventually will be renovated to house classroom and studio space for the School of Art.
The $12 million price tag for the Richmond Center will be paid entirely with private gifts. Retrofitting the south wing of Kohrman is expected to cost about $13.5 million, much or all of which will also need to be raised through gifts from alumni and friends.
Media contact: Thom Myers, 269 387-8400, firstname.lastname@example.org