Art & Design, Music crowd CDFAC

Photo contributed by Jim Viewegh
Photo contributed by Jim Viewegh

With 120 art & design majors and 100 music majors in a building that was made for 40 music majors and 40 art & design majors, the art & design department and the music department students do their best with the space they have in the Christel DeHaan Fine Arts Center building. However, according to Chair of Art & Design Jim Viewegh and Chair of Music Brenda Clark, while having art & design and music together in one building sounds like a good idea on paper, in reality, it is not practical.

“Christel DeHaan was built 22 years ago for 40 art students and 40 music students,” Viewegh said. “And since then, both programs have become nationally accredited, and they have maintained that. Both programs have essentially tripled in size, both in students and in faculty, and the potential for us to do more is there. It’s just we’re limited by space.”

Clark said that the art & design department requires a setting and environment different from the one that music requires.

“We shouldn’t inhabit the same space in the same building,” she said. “We have different needs when it comes to the air flow, temperature and humidity maintenance. So that in itself is a big challenge.”

Viewegh said that the art & design and music departments have very different air control needs for their art projects and instruments.

“The problem with us being together is that they [in music] need conditioned space,” he said. “Basically, they need space that is temperature controlled. They need space that has a certain level of humidity in it that protects their wooden instruments, while we’re at the other end of the building, blowing every bit of air out of here that we can. So we have ceramic studios, foundations studios, drawing and painting studios, a woodshop—all of which need constant air circulation to bring in fresh air to get dust particles and such out. So while they’re trying to maintain that level of condition within the building, as far as air quality goes, we’re trying to just replace all the air. So that’s destroying the whole idea of humidity control.”

According to Clark, the building’s space is also too small to house both of the growing majors.

“Neither department has enough space, and the types of spaces that we need are very unique to the art that we create,” Clark said. “Those needs are quite different. We need sound proof rooms, rooms with high ceilings in some cases, and they [art & design] don’t require that.”

Viewegh said that the art & design department needs a bigger space, but also a more open environment as well. Junior art education major Liv Reuter also thinks that art & design students need more space to work comfortably and efficiently.

“Our painting [and drawing] room … is super, super cramped,” she said. “When we get all the easels up, we can hardly fit everybody in there. It’s kind of a recipe for disaster walking around the room. You could knock over somebody’s canvas.”

Reuter said there also is not a lot of room for 3D and ceramic projects, and she knows of people whose pieces were broken accidentally because of tight space. She also said there is not a lot of room for paintings to be laid out to dry.  She thinks there should be a location for the senior exhibitions put on by the art & design students.

“People’s senior exhibitions always happen in the basement of Schwitzer [Student Center],” Reuter said, “and not a lot of people even know they [the exhibitions] are down there. So I think [there should be] a bigger space for senior exhibitions, because it’s a big deal, and it’s exciting. And it would be better to have a space so that more of the public knows about it.”

Viewegh said that art & design students cannot do their schoolwork just anywhere on campus. They need certain studio rooms and classrooms. When the art & design department went through its reaccreditation process, Viewegh said, the space was a problem that was cited.

“They [the accreditation reviewers] said that the space was way too small for the number we have as majors and the number of students we serve as non-majors,” Viewegh said. “… A number of our rooms are basically running nonstop with classes from 8 o’clock in the morning to 8 o’clock at night. So it’s not leaving enough open time for people to come work outside of class, too. If somebody takes a lecture class—say they take a history lecture class or English class—they don’t have to go back to the classroom to do the work. They just go wherever. They go to the library to do their work. So they have this new, giant library to go study in, but art students and music students have to go back to their building, to the specialized stations, to do their work. So if the room never opens, then the people can’t get in to do their work.”

According to Clark, this is not the first time that space has been mentioned as a problem during the reaccreditation process.

“Ideally, we would like to have a new facility that is better equipped so that we won’t be at risk for our accreditation,” Clark said. “Both of our departments have accreditation bodies that we report to, and that’s a factor in terms of what we are able to do. The lack of space and the safety of the space, in terms of hearing, have been things that we have been cited for in the past. Those are important issues.”

Clark said that music majors need practice rooms and with only ten  practice rooms, two of which are for piano only, currently there are not enough rooms to accommodate all of the students.

Another practice room includes two pianos sharing a bench. The building was originally made for 40 music majors and 40 art & design majors. Photo by Mercadees Hempel
Another practice room includes two pianos sharing a bench. The building was originally made for 40 music majors and 40 art & design majors. Photo by Mercadees Hempel

“We need individual rooms for students to do their work and for practicing,” Clark said. “Performance majors are supposed to practice at least three to four hours a day on their primary instrument, and other majors at least two hours a day. They all also have to have specific levels of piano proficiency by their sophomore year. They have to have space with instruments to practice. So when you talk about 100 majors having two instruments that they need to practice, and we have eight practice rooms, you can see there is quite a deficiency.”

Junior music performance major Jacob Markisohn, who plays brass and is in a brass quartet, said that while CDFAC has good utilities, the lack of practice rooms is a frustrating thing to deal with.  He said that many times before a rehearsal, he was not able to warm up the muscles in his jaw, which meant he did not play as well as he could. He also has practiced in the stairwell, which disturbs others, he said.

“For musicians, that’s our time to study on what we’re doing,” Markisohn said. “That’s our time to improve what we’re going to be doing once we get out of here. So it’s like you have someone in biology, and you tell them, ‘Have this lab done by next week.’ But you don’t give them any place to do the lab, or the right tools to do the lab, sometimes. It’s tough to be able to meet deadlines in terms of getting things ready for practice, especially when you don’t have a place at school to practice.”

Senior music performance major Logan Fox practices a marimba in a practice room in Christel DeHaan Fine Arts Center. Photo by Mercadees Hempel
Senior music performance major Logan Fox practices a marimba in a practice room in Christel DeHaan Fine Arts Center. Photo by Mercadees Hempel

Clark said that besides practice rooms, there is not enough storage space, so many of the music department’s things are stored in the basement of the Schwitzer Student Center. There is also a teaching space in the basement of  Warren Hall, and one of the keyboard teaching spaces is in Esch Hall. Clark also said that the classrooms are not large enough or equipped for the instruction that is needed and that the performance hall is limiting as well.

“We’re restricted regarding the types of events we can bring in because our hall will only seat about 500 people,” she said. “For example, the event we had Monday night [Nov. 7], there were just under 600 people here. So what do you do with that? If we had a bigger space, it could be a revenue generator for the university as well.”

According to the Vision 2030 plan, which was started in 2012, the university’s art programs, including art & design, music and theatre, have “grown in enrollment and outgrown their campus homes, and there is need for newly configured studio, shop, classroom and recital space.” President Robert Manuel said that now that several spaces on campus have been updated and renovated, the space situation needs to be addressed all across the board.

“We are now in the process of decompressing,”  he said. “Now that everybody has moved into the Health Pavilion, that has created space and opportunities in Good Hall, created space and opportunities in the science center, Martin and Lilly Halls, which we just finished renovating this year. And so the conversation is, ‘What’s next?’ Buildings like that [the Christel DeHaan Fine Arts Center] need philanthropic support, so we need our alumni, our faculty, our staff and our community members and corporations to help us invest in that space. There have been a couple of plans put in place to think about moving the arts out and then pushing back over to the rest of the building. But we’re not at a place where we have the philanthropic dollars to invest in the space. So we have to figure and be creative about how we can use the space together.”

One idea proposed by Viewegh, which Manuel would like to see happen, is to move the art & design department to the Physical Plant’s space, but the process of raising money to do so takes a lot of creativity and time, Manuel said.

“The micro-vision for what the departments need and want is the first thing you have to create,” Manuel said. “… What do the faculty need? What does Brenda [Clark] need? What does Jim [Viewegh] need? Then how do you articulate that in a way that would get donors excited about giving money to them. That could be anywhere from a $5 [million] or $6 million investment to a $30 million investment. Then you take that and match it to your capacity of what you are able to raise and whether or not you can make those extensions. There are different ways to do that. It’s harder with academic buildings than it is with residence buildings, because there is room and board that comes to pay that in some ways. If you are not going to have philanthropic dollars pay for it, you are going to have to think about where those dollars come from…. I don’t know whether they [currently enrolled students] would see a new building. If I had the money in hand right now, it would take two years to design and build. It took us four years to raise $45 million. So it depends how quickly the philanthropy and movement goes along….  It’s not an either/or … that any space problem or issue that exists is something we would put into a set of plans to resolve, but there are intermediary steps to be creative with how we manage the interim time.”

Viewegh said that funding needs to be secured to move the process along, but the art & design department does not need much in terms of how the building looks.

“I think the bottom line is, we just need to find a way to secure a donation or secure some kind of funding that would allow art & design to get out of Christel DeHaan, so music can take it over. And the kind of structure we need is really cheap,” Viewegh said. “We don’t need anything that looks nice. Basically, we don’t need a Health Pavilion. So there are construction techniques out there that are very inexpensive and don’t look as nice on the inside as your Christel DeHaan and Health Pavilion. That would work perfectly for us.”

Clark said that they are willing to wait, but she hopes that the space and the two departments will be taken care of soon.

“We are very patient,” she said. “We realize that space renovation, or new space, takes money. But we would like to be at the top of the list for the next Vision 2030 project.”