WMU News

New art building named for James and Lois Richmond

Dec. 12, 2003

KALAMAZOO--Ground has not been broken yet for the new School of Art building at Western Michigan University, but the building does have a name, and thanks to a $2.5 million gift from James and Lois Richmond of Kalamazoo, construction will begin soon.

Both the gift and the naming of the building for the Richmonds were announced at the Dec. 12 meeting of the WMU Board of Trustees. Board approval is required to name a building at the university, and the trustees voted unanimously "to name the art building in honor of James W. and Lois I. Richmond." The exact name of the facility will be determined later.

"On behalf of our art faculty and students, who have struggled for so long with woefully inadequate facilities, I extend heartfelt thanks to Jim and Lois Richmond, two true friends of the arts in the greater Kalamazoo community," says Margaret Merrion, dean of the College of Fine Arts. "The new building is going to make a night-to-day difference in our ability to provide accessible, quality exhibitions of works by students, faculty and visiting artists. It will permit the 'College of Distinction' [Fine Arts] to advance its mission of public cultural education."

James and Lois Richmond are both WMU graduates. Lois is a former assistant vice president of administration at Bronson Methodist Hospital. James was an executive with Stryker Corp., where he served as senior vice president of global marketing and development prior to his retirement in 1988. He has since served as a special consultant for Stryker, and came out of retirement briefly in 1995 to assist with reorganization of a major division in the company.

James Richmond is a well-known Kalamazoo area artist. His medium is scrap metal, found objects and wood gathered from unlikely places, such as factories and farm auctions. The Richmonds have a longtime association with the Kalamazoo Institute of Arts, where James has served on the board of directors and steering committee for the KIA school.

Architectural plans for the new art building are being finalized, according to Merrion, who says construction is scheduled to begin in 2005. The new building will be located next to the Dalton Center, which houses music and dance, and adjacent to Miller Auditorium and the Gilmore Theatre Complex. It will be connected by pedestrian overpasses to the Dalton Center, Miller Auditorium parking ramp and Kohrman Hall. Kohrman was previously the principal home of the engineering college, which moved this past summer to a new building on the Parkview Campus. Kohrman will be renovated for additional art studio and classroom space.

With completion of the new building, an "arts village" will be created around the Fountain Plaza at Miller Auditorium, which Merrion says will lead to "tremendous new opportunities for collaboration" among the four departments and schools in the college.

"Merging of the arts--what we in the academic environment call interdisciplinary studies--is the future of the arts," says Merrion. "Think about it, everything in the arts is becoming 'multimedia.' With the consolidation of our programs, we will can create great synergy and offer many interesting new opportunities for all of our students."

More than 630 students pursue undergraduate and graduate art degrees at WMU, and another 300 students have art as a minor. Thousands of other students take courses in art as part of their general education or professional education requirements, making art one of the most heavily enrolled programs at WMU.

Media contact: Thom Myers, 269 387-8400, thom.myers@wmich.edu

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