University preps for May 4 visitors center while waiting for grant

Nicole Stempak

‘Top-notch’ design firm interested

Talks of a planning grant and design message for the May 4 visitors’ center are progressing, said associate provost Laura Davis.

Davis and Carole Barbato, professor of communication studies at Kent State East Liverpool Campus, went to Washington D.C. in mid-September to meet with design firm Gallagher & Associates and the National Endowment for the Humanities about the visitors center.

“We were very encouraged at both meetings; it’s real exciting,” Davis said.

Both described the design firm as “world-class” and “top-notch” as they listed some of the exhibits Gallagher & Associates has designed, which include the International Spy Museum in Washington and visitors’ centers at historic sites such as the Jamestown Settlement and Gettysburg National Military Park.

“They were excited about the prospect of getting involved,” Barbato said. “Then, when we asked them to be part of the grant that we were working on, they just got more and more excited.”

David Middleton, associate professor for the school of visual communication design, had his environmental graphic design class make designs for the visitors center. With the help of a travel grant, he was able to take his class to Washington D.C. last fall to meet with Cybelle Jones, creative director of Gallagher & Associates.

Davis accompanied the class on the trip, where she was first introduced to Jones.

Davis said the firm’s interest was surprising, considering its reputation.

“This, for a firm of their stature, would be a small project, but they consider the event so important that they are really quite interested in doing work,” Davis said.

Davis and Barbato applied for an NEH grant last year to help with the cost of planning the visitors center.

Barbato said they met with the program director for advice on how to revise their proposal.

“We received positive feedback, but it wasn’t funded,” she said of the initial proposal.

Davis said the NEH encouraged them to revise and resubmit their grant proposal by the end of January. They expect to receive feedback from the NEH in the summer.

In the meantime, Davis and Barbato will meet with their scholar team, the group deciding what will be included in the visitors center, to finalize what themes will be emphasized in the display, Davis said.

“We can, during this time, think about both the amount of content of the display as well as artifacts that might be included in the display and continue to refine our narrative about the context and historical significance,” she said. “There’s a lot that we can do on our own because the funding situation is sorting itself out.”

Barbato said the visitors center is important because it will help to contextualize the 1960s.

“We are trying to present kind of social, political and cultural context for understanding what happened here almost 40 years ago,” she said.

Barbato said anyone can donate money toward the creation of the visitors center at

Contact student polics reporter Nicole Stempak at [email protected].