Studio Arts still awaits plans for a new home


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Katie Jensen, a sophomore psychology major, once considered double majoring in art.

For a time, she took drawing and metalworking classes twice a week in the Studio Arts Building, but the inconvenience of transportation to the location and worries about scheduling classes persuaded her to drop the art major.

“I don’t think it’s a permanent solution,” Jensen said about the facility’s current location. “I do think they need to put a building closer to campus.”

The Art Building remains the last flood-damaged building without plans for a new, permanent replacement.

Studio Arts has been located in the former Menards on Highway 1 West since the Arts Campus was inundated by the record-breaking flood of 2008. Negotiations failed to purchase privately owned River Street property for a new studio-arts building, officials announced in December.

The temporary building serves between 750 and 800 studio-arts majors regularly. In the fall 2010 semester, 1,740 students were enrolled in classes at the facility.

Officials are looking at other properties near the Arts Campus, and they will update the state Board of Regents at its Feb. 2 meeting. Some information about the meeting will be available tomorrow.

John Beldon Scott, the director of the UI Art and Art History Department, said architects are now conducting feasibility and capacity studies on the alternate options.

Construction crews are repairing the inside of Art Building West and working on flood mitigation around the outside. The painting, graphic design, digital photography, and art history divisions originally located in Art Building West will reoccupy the building in time for the start of spring semester in 2012, Scott said.

Currently, the three miles between studio arts and art-history students hinders collaboration between the two groups, Scott said. He also noted lighting in the temporary building causes problems for artists — colors appear dull.

Some professors also said an echo in the large, open space occasionally makes teaching difficult.

“These are things we have to deal with,” said Kee-Ho Yuen, head of the UI jewelry and metal-arts program and a professor at the Studio Arts Building. “Overall, we are up and running.”

On the other hand, UI design program head and professor, Ab Gratama, said having the entire studio-arts program housed together is a huge blessing, as it fosters collaboration.

Despite this advantage, transportation has remained an issue for many; a Cambus only makes the three-mile trip every 15 minutes.

Many students have short breaks between their classes and must either leave class early to catch the bus, or show up late to studio-art classes, Gratama said.

Taryn McMahon, a graduate student in printmaking, said she had gotten used to the space.

“I really like this building. There’s a lot of space and free parking,” she said.

Yuen, an art professor at the UI for more than 10 years who teaches in the temporary facility three days a week, said he looks forward to the new art facility, but said he still felt appreciative of the current set-up.

“Our job is to make the best of the situation and try our best and see how we can make the best of the equipment and the space we have,” Yuen said.

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