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Thursday gala marks opening of new art studios

March 31, 2008

KALAMAZOO--An awards ceremony and open house Thursday, April 3, marks a milestone in a $22.5 million renovation project underway at Western Michigan University and unveils a much-needed new district of art studios, classrooms and exhibition spaces.

The University's Frostic School of Art invites members of the campus, art and Kalamazoo communities to be the first to visit its new studios in South Kohrman Hall, the completion of which puts WMU past the halfway point in an extensive renovation project. Highlights of the daylong celebration include the opening of two art shows, an awards ceremony and community tours of the school's sleek new facilities.

Frostic School of Art Open House Schedule
Thursday, April 3

10 a.m. to 7 p.m.--Exhibit openings, Richmond Center for Visual Arts galleries
3:30 to 4:30 p.m.--Student Achievement Awards, Dalton Center Recital Hall
4:30 to 6 p.m.--Reception, Richmond Center for Visual Arts Lobby
6 to 8 p.m.--Open house, demonstrations and tours, South Kohrman Hall

Guests can begin with a visit to the University's sweeping new Richmond Center for Visual Arts, where a duo of exhibits will open in tandem with the day's festivities. Completed last June, the 44,000-square-foot, $13 million space boasts three large galleries in addition to a massive sculpture garden, lecture hall, administrative and exhibition support offices, and a high-tech graphic design suite. It was created to merge community and education by housing permanent and temporary collections that beckon the public and reflect the work of WMU's students, faculty and visiting artists.

Later in the afternoon an awards ceremony will be held to recognize the achievements of WMU's art students. The ceremony takes place in the Dalton Center Recital Hall, adjacent to the Richmond Center. Following the celebration, the Frostic School of Art will open the doors to 88,000 square feet of upgraded studio and workshop space in South Kohrman Hall, which is directly accessible from the Richmond Center. Guests can watch a bronze pour in the new foundry, see the University's printmaking presses in action, observe faculty and students shaping clay vessels on 20 new pottery wheels, create their own jewelry, and learn about new visual art techniques.

The new space in Kohrman houses a dozen specialty labs for painting, photography, printmaking, digital imaging, sculpture, ceramics and metalsmithing. Dr. James Hopfensperger, acting dean of the College of Fine Arts, says the facility features airy spaces with high ceilings and industrial finishes such as concrete floors, painted block walls, and fabricated metal display boards.

"Students have shared their gratitude for the quality and character of the new teaching labs and studio work spaces," Hopfensperger says. "Colleagues in higher education express envy over the design and layout of WMU's teaching and exhibition spaces."

A two-phase renovation of Kohrman Hall began in 2006, based on plans by SmithGroup, the same architects who designed the Richmond Center. The first phase included a complete reconfiguration of the south wing. Now finished, the overhaul has created dedicated studio spaces designed to serve students' specific program needs, while providing flexible classrooms, critique spaces and collaborative studios that are shared by students and faculty of various programs. High-tech mechanical systems have been implemented to address environmental issues associated with art processes. Electrical, telecommunications and audio-visual systems have also been completely upgraded to create more interactive learning environments.

A bridge connection links South Kohrman's studios and classrooms with the galleries of the Richmond Center, creating a plush new art district and a completely integrated home for the Frostic School of Art.

"At the end of December, we moved from our dispersed locations in Sangren, Knollwood and East Hall into Kohrman," says Dr. Joyce Kubiski, interim director of the Frostic School of Art. "We are just finishing up our first semester in over 30 years with all instruction taking place under one roof."

The new central location allows students and faculty to move more freely among media-based labs, open studios and critique spaces. Hopfensperger expects that the resulting interchange and cross-pollination will create more collaborative and varied art forms.

Doug Lloyd, WMU project architect, says the second phase of the Kohrman Hall building project continues with a renovation of the central wing, which is being transformed into state-of-the-art classrooms for general University use.

Media contact: Tonya Hernandez, (269) 387-8400, tonya.hernandez@wmich.edu

WMU News
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