Educational programs spread over five different campus buildings are moving toward a new home on the University of Arkansas - Fort Smith campus during the fall 2015 semester.

CDI Contractors of Little Rock and Fayetteville was confirmed this past week as construction manager for the new $15 million-plus visual arts facility, an action that Chancellor Paul B. Beran said brings the project closer to reality.

“Our campus has long needed a building designated for these programs,” Dr. Beran said. “This will provide our students with arts-related classrooms and studios in a purposefully designed facility, bringing a cohesiveness to the visual arts programs for students that has not been physically possible with varied locations.”

The new building, being designed by WER Architects of Little Rock, will also house gallery spaces, the letterpress and printmaking operation, graphic design laboratories and spaces for photography, painting, sculpture and art history. The freshmen foundations program -- which includes basic courses in drawing, 2D design, 3D design, typography and digital imaging -- will also be housed there.

The Chancellor’s Coalition for the Visual Arts, created by Beran in his efforts to increase the quality of place for the Fort Smith region, will also have space within the new building.

“During meetings to provide input for a new campus master plan scheduled for release this fall, the need for this facility was clearly shown,” said Beran. “It’s time to move forward and provide new, quality space to house these visual arts programs, but we also see this facility as one that will further enhance the University’s role in the arts in this region.”

Dr. Henry Rinne, dean of the College of Humanities and Social Sciences, agreed.

“This new building will become a center for the arts,” said Rinne, “with three major galleries to showcase our student work as well as art shows of regional and national importance. We will also be able to expand and offer additional workshops that are open to the community.”

Rinne said the building would also include a 150-seat film theatre.

“We currently have no place on campus for showing films,” he said. “This will give us a small theatre for film series efforts, but it will also be used for classes when needed.”

Rinne said the architects have been challenged to provide not only a practical space but also a beautiful building in the three-story, approximate 58,000-square-foot facility.

Don Lee, associate professor and head of the Art Department, pointed to the real purpose for the new building -- to support the visual arts in all ways.

“As a facility designed for the art programs, art students and majors,” said Lee, “the space and equipment will empower students to accomplish significant goals from foundations through graduation. There are also galleries and spaces for exhibitions, workshops and presentations by qualified artists. This facility will contribute to the status and enrichment of the University and community regarding visual arts and culture. To this end, the facility is a major achievement.”

There are currently about 120 graphic design majors and 50 studio art majors enrolled at UAFS, with hundreds of students on campus served by the general education courses which will be offered in the new building.

UAFS is receiving a $15.5 million grant from the Windgate Charitable Foundation of Siloam Springs to construct and equip the new visual arts facility, with the final $2.5 million of the grant commitment as a challenge grant to match other donations raised by UAFS.

Dr. Marta Loyd, vice chancellor for university advancement, said the UAFS Foundation will raise the $2.5 million for a building endowment.

“Given the support for the arts in our community and the excitement surrounding this project, we should be able to secure these funds by the time construction is complete,” said Loyd. “We are exceedingly grateful to receive this generous grant from Windgate and will begin working toward raising the matching funds immediately.”

Rinne said the art faculty has been working on a new fine arts facility for many years.

“We are very grateful for the opportunity the donor has given us to achieve our dreams,” said Rinne. “In the end, it’s about the students. The Art Department has an excellent record of placing our graduates into the workforce and into graduate schools across the country.”

Beran said he also expects the facility to be designed with LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) standards, as UAFS is committed to pursue energy efficiency and did so with the last major construction project on campus, The Lion’s Den residence hall.

The new facility will be located on the southwest corner of Waldron and Kinkead and is bordered by Stubblefield Center, The Lion’s Den and Baldor Technology Center. No additional parking will be required, since the building will be adjacent to one parking lot and in the immediate vicinity of another lot that was completed two years ago.


Story ID: 
Date Posted: 
Tuesday, September 17, 2013
News Teaser: 
Educational programs spread over five different campus buildings are moving toward a new home on the University of Arkansas - Fort Smith campus during the fall 2015 semester.