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Dartmouth Receives $50 Million to Support New Visual Arts Center

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Dartmouth will break ground on a new Visual Arts Center in 2010 thanks to an anonymous Dartmouth family who in June made a $50 million commitment, the largest gift in the College's history. A long-standing priority of the College, the 105,000-square-foot Visual Arts Center will consolidate under one roof the Departments of Studio Art and Film and Media Studies, which are currently spread across campus in two and three buildings, respectively. The new center will also facilitate interdisciplinary collaborations between the two departments, resolve a space crunch while freeing up much-needed rehearsal space in the Hopkins Center, and provide a home for digital humanities, an interdisciplinary field that intersects with both studio art and film and media studies.

Visual Arts Center renderingDartmouth's new Visual Arts Center will unite the Departments of Studio Art and Film and Media Studies under one roof. In academic year 2008-09, the departments' combined enrollments totaled 1,132 in 82 courses.

"The arts provide a powerful way for our faculty to teach human culture and history, and stimulate creativity, flexibility, and leadership in our students," says Carol Folt, dean of the Faculty of Arts and Sciences. Folt, an aquatic environmental scientist and the Dartmouth Professor of Biological Sciences, also studied studio art as an undergraduate. "The Visual Arts Center will give us sufficient studio space to meet student demand, provide cutting-edge classrooms and teaching studios for production and design, and will help Dartmouth recruit and retain top artists and scholars. We are very excited about how this building will help to expand the reach of the arts on campus."

The center will contain teaching and production studios, digital teaching labs, classrooms, exhibition space, and two screening rooms, including a new 254-seat Loew Auditorium. At the building's heart will be a soaring, three-story arts forum-an open atrium in which artwork can be exhibited and students, faculty, and visitors may gather informally.

vac interior

VISUAL ARTS CENTER: FORM AND FUNCTION A contemporary building clad in slate and designed to maximize natural light, the center is scheduled for completion in fall 2012.
Lower level: screening room
Ground floor: Arts forum, sculpture, exhibition gallery, Loew Auditorium, film and media studios, digital lab
Second floor: Photography, animation studios, architecture, printmaking, and digital humanities
Third floor: Drawing, painting, and senior studios

"The building is designed to have a lot of transparency with the central glass atrium, which will make it possible to watch art being created and to be intrigued and inspired," says Kate Conley, associate dean of the faculty for the arts and humanities.

The chairs of studio art and film and media studies are looking forward to uniting their departments under one roof and to having exhibition spaces, among other benefits.

"Having all areas in the same building will help with cross-pollination," says Brenda Garand, chair of the Department of Studio Art. "It will be a major improvement for students to have spaces created specifically for architecture, drawing, painting, photography, printmaking, and sculpture. Clement Hall is a dark, retrofitted space that was formerly a garage. The ceilings are so low that it's difficult for sculpture students to flip the standard-sized plywood and sheet metal they work with."

"Because we're spread out in three different buildings across campus, it's currently impossible for our students and faculty to interact with each other every day," says Chair of Film and Media Studies Amy Lawrence. "It will be great for our students to finally have a space where they can gather and share ideas. And having state-of-the-art screening rooms for watching and studying films, as well as production facilities that are soundproofed and designed for that purpose, will make a profound difference for our students."

Arts websiteFor more on the arts, visit the Arts at Dartmouth website, a multimedia gateway to the arts on campus.

The Visual Arts Center will be located on Lebanon Street and include an outdoor plaza linking it to the Hopkins Center for the Performing Arts and the Hood Museum of Art. Conley says this "arts district" will revitalize the south edge of campus and create an inviting gateway to the campus.

The building was designed by award-winning architects Machado and Silvetti Associates of Boston, whose recent works include the Getty Villa in Malibu, additions to Bowdoin College's historically significant Walker Art Building, and the Boston Public Library's Honan-Allston Branch.

By BONNIE BARBER

Last Updated: 1/12/10