Renovation in the works

Jennifer Mussig

Oscar Ritchie Hall to begin construction in August 2007

After repeated requests from students and faculty in the last year, a date has been set for the renovation of Oscar Ritchie Hall.

The renovation will reflect more appropriately the academic and cultural mission of the Center of Pan-African Culture and add to the attractiveness of the front campus area, said Diedre Badejo, chairperson for the Center of Pan-African Culture.

Oscar Ritchie Hall is currently in the design phase of renovation, which will end around March 2007, said Chinwe Abulokwe, architect for Moody Nolan, Inc. Construction is scheduled to start in August 2007 and is expected to be completed by August 2008, she said. The building will most probably stay the same size. Most of the work will focus on redoing the interior, but there will be some work done to the outside.

There is no cultural center like this in the country, said professor Mwatabu Okantah, director of the Center of Pan-African Culture. The renovation will attract more students, staff and members of the community, he added.

“People tend to like new things,” Okantah said. “It will be the place to be.”

Part of the mission, as a cultural center, is to serve the campus and the community, Okantah said. The African Community Theatre gives students the opportunity to learn and act. It also gives opportunities to people in the community who want to be involved as well. With a newly renovated Oscar Ritchie Hall, the center will be better able to increase participation from the community, he added.

“The commitment to get the building renovated reflects the university’s commitment to diversity,” Okantah said.

The Center of Pan-African Culture is planning a master’s degree program, Badejo said. It would benefit the center to have national and international scholars visit Kent State to expose students to people with great expertise. Badejo said she looks forward to having a space as welcoming as the department and campus are.

“We are very excited and thrilled about the investment in the cultural center and the renovation of Oscar Ritchie Hall,” she said. “We look forward to meeting the academic and cultural vision for the 21st century.”

Previous interior renovations to Oscar Ritchie Hall were completed two summers ago. The building used to get too hot during summer and too cold during winter, Okantah said. Air conditioners were installed in offices with windows, new carpeting was placed, the ventilation system was improved and new doors were installed for added security.

“I would like to jazz up one entrance to give the building a face,” Abulokwe said.

Included in the renovation will be an elevator to make the building completely accessible to people with handicaps. In the past, if a handicapped student had a class on the third floor, the class would be moved, Okantah said.

Digital photos have already been taken of all the artwork in Oscar Ritchie. The artwork will be professionally photographed again by Moody Nolan, Inc. After spending time exploring different possibilities, it was evident the walls couldn’t be preserved, Okantah said.

It is possible that future generations of students could put their own artwork in the building, Okantah said. He said he advocates students submitting a design to a jury of students, faculty and staff who will then select what to put in the building.

Contact buildings and grounds reporter Jennifer Mussig at [email protected].