Students and faculty hope for art building renovations


Chelsae Ketchum

Junior Brenda Balut works on her glass blowing project in the Schwartz Center, April 25. Photo by Chelsae Ketchum.

Rachel Campbell

Junior art history major Jackie Coblentz settles in to a classroom in the art building for another lecture and PowerPoint presentation. Coblentz, as well as the rest of her classmates, are interrupted by the sound of a weed whacker on the other side of the thin walls of her classroom.

“It sounded like a sweeper and it was so loud,” she said.” “It’s really annoying and I just don’t like it. I wish they would do something about it and I’ve only been going here for a semester.”

Incidents like this classify the Art Building as an academic building that needs renovations and repairs the most. The 1972 structure lacks space, forces the School of Art to spread out to six separate buildings and the main building itself is deteriorated.

Although talks of renovating the building have occurred for several years, the conditions remain unchanged.

The six-building department

The glass studio is located across East Summit in the Michael Schwartz Center among the admissions office, the bursar’s office and parking services. The isolated location of the studio decreases the chance that students even know it is there.

“[On] the China trip that I just went on, there were at least five of the 13 students that were art students that have never walked in here,” said M. Sean Mercer, associate professor of art and head of the glass department. “Unless you would have an occasion or a class in here, why would anyone walk in here?”

The textiles department holds demos and is separate from the main art building. This department is located where the old Lake/Olson Hall cafeteria used to be.

Janice Lessman-Moss, head of the textiles department, weaved a sign to indicate the location of the department. It was displayed during one of their open houses, but was later taken down due to the upcoming window renovations.

“I’m waiting for them to redo the windows and put my textiles sign up,” she said. “I feel like once I get the signs up then I’ll have the visibility that maybe we don’t have now.”

Despite wanting visibility, Lessman-Moss also understands the advantages to some separation and fears the possibility of a downgrade in a future facility.

“I think that we wouldn’t have the fabulous facilities that we do and that’s my main concern,” she said. “The fact that we all have our little satellite spaces, in many ways, you know we have better facilities because we’ve had more room and so I worry about that.”

Working toward collaboration

Despite being afraid of losing the textiles department’s excellent facilities, Lessman-Moss also said she saw the advantages of housing everyone in the same building.

“In contemporary culture where students are…really feeling like they can express themselves in more than one medium area, why not go across the hall and blow some glass that then you’re going to be integrating with your sculpture piece or, you know, putting some screen printed stuff with your textiles work.”

Mercer said the separation eliminates collaboration within the School of Art.

“Sometimes it has its advantages, but I think more disadvantages than anything else because I really don’t feel often a part of the art program because I don’t have the interaction,” Mercer said.

Graduate coordinator Michael Loderstedt also said it would be beneficial to have art majors under one roof for creative purposes.

“The other reason why we want to be under one roof is because we’re in five different locations around the campus and art, more than any other field I can imagine, really needs to be able to see what each other are doing,” he said. “It’s important for people in printmaking to see what kind of things folks in metals are making because those ideas can sometimes crossover and influence one another in very positive ways.”

An art building with little art

In addition to physical separation and lack of collaboration, the building is often criticized for not being aesthetically pleasing; especially for a place where so much art is created. Mercer attended Kent State as an undergrad and many of his classes were in the same building.

“It looks, to my recollection, pretty much the same, but I can’t speak to the leaky roof and things like that, and as an undergrad you don’t pay attention to all those things,” he said. “It was equally as ugly. You know if you walk through there, a lot of times it doesn’t look like an art building.”

The walls themselves also cause issues in the building.

“The walls are translucent so at night it glows from within and in the daytime you get this kind of effect that’s almost like a Japanese screen, but it’s very poorly insolated and the materials have decayed with time,” said Christine Havice, director of the School of Art.

These translucent walls have caused lighting issues in the galleries located on the second floor of the building.

“It’s like you have to paint according to the lighting in the gallery if you want anything to hang in there because the light alters what you see,” Coblentz said. “So if you wanted a specific color scheme, it’s destroyed because you’ve got the sun shining on it and this like orange tint.”

Future of the building

Despite the obvious need of a new building, little progress has been made on the status of a renovation. Havice said that the last meeting she attended specifically about a new building was nearly three years ago in July 2009.

“It’s not that people haven’t been trying; I know that,” she said. “It’s just that we’ve had to come up with plan a and plan b and now I think we’re on plan c.”

The latest update that Havice had was relayed to her last month.

Havice said the latest update she received was that the state voted an additional $21 million for renovations at Kent State, although where that money will go has not been determined.

“I don’t say your guess is as good as mine because I’m not sure we’re at the point of guessing anymore.”

Contact Rachel Campbell at [email protected].