Art Department excited about new arts campus


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The University of Iowa School of Art has been not been a coherent feature on campus for almost five years now, after the 2008 floods forced the school to split into two locations. Many major buildings were flooded, including the Art Building and Hancher/Voxman/Clapp facility.

Now, after years of negotiating funding issues with the Federal Emergency Management Agency and a much-debated site selection process, the final dream of a unified arts campus is at last on the horizon.

Parts of Hancher Auditorium, which has stood in its place on the West Side of campus for more than 40 years, came crumbling down Thursday as demolition on the university landmark began.

The auditorium has sat dark and empty since the flood in 2008. Where the front lawn once spread out, bulldozers and dump trucks now rev up their engines as they cart away the first loads of wreckage from the decrepit theater.

Portions of several art buildings also came down Thursday.

When construction on the Arts Campus broke in July, it signaled the largest post-flood project and most expensive campus construction job in UI history.

The new buildings, some of which are being designed by award-winning architecture firm Pelli Clarke Pelli, are set to be complete by 2016.

They mirror modern design elements found at the nearby Levitt Center for University Advancement.

“The Arts Campus is going to be one of the finest facilities, if not in the nation, anywhere in the world on a public-university campus,” UI spokesman Tom Moore said.

School of Art and Art History Department Administrator Pat Arkema is eager to see art students united once again, instead of having to take classes at both Art Building West and the Studio Arts Building.

“Having the other part of us back on campus and close again, it really facilitates community among the students,” she said.

Senior arts major Kytana Priebe expressed similar thoughts, even though she will have graduated by the time the new Arts Campus is complete.

“The idea of having [campus] back over here, the way it started before the flood, is a big deal,” she said. “It’s something that’s pretty cool to look forward to, even if I won’t get to be a part of it.”

Moore said he believes that the new buildings will set the university’s arts and humanities department in a class of its own.

“It’s very unusual for a major research university such as this to have such an outstanding arts and humanities program to begin with,” he said. “And the fact that at this point in time we are also basically building an entirely new arts and humanities campus is also quite a unique thing.”

With the demolition of water-worn buildings comes the loss of university landmarks that have been standing for decades — landmarks that have hosted countless shows, symphonies, and studios.

Hancher Director of Marketing and Communications Rob Cline watched the beginning of the demolition of a building that had been central to his job for years, and he says he is excited about the change.

“Like so many people, I have many cherished memories related to the old facility, so I’ll be sorry to see the building come down,” he said. “Still, it’s the work that we do that’s most important to me, and that has continued during this post-flood period and will, of course, continue when we move into the new facility.”

Cline is ready to entertain audiences in a brand-new auditorium that will be a staple at the university for years to come.

“All of us at Hancher are looking forward to welcoming everyone to the new facility and sharing amazing artistic experiences in a truly beautiful new setting,” he said.

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