State of the arts: Renovated building paints a picture of creativity and class

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Amy Provost ’17 has a new favorite place on campus: the second-floor printmaking studio in the recently renovated Visual Arts building.

Overlooking Jackson’s Garden, the studio offers one of the most spectacular views on campus.

“It’s inspiring to work in,” said Provost, a visual arts major with a focus on printmaking from Vancouver, Wash. “The huge windows let in lots of natural light, which is important to me. This new space, with its beautiful view, makes me excited to spend time working on my thesis.”

The printmaking studio is just one highlight in a scrapbook of many for the 37,000-square-foot building that recently reopened following a major year-long renovation. The project was supported in part by an $11 million gift from the Feigenbaum Foundation.

The foundation was created by the late brothers Armand V. Feigenbaum ’42 and Donald S. Feigenbaum ‘46, longtime benefactors to Union.

In recognition of the gift, the building has been renamed the Feigenbaum Center for Visual Arts. It will be officially dedicated Oct. 22 as part of Homecoming festivities.

Built in 1852 to house the departments of physics and chemistry, the building formed part of the original campus plan, a comprehensive design for Union’s campus by French architect Joseph Ramée. It is home to art history and studio arts programs (drawing, painting, printmaking, photography, sculpture and digital art).

Visual Arts Building

Highlights of the renovation include a three-story addition featuring a sculpture and design studio for metalworking alongside an outdoor sculpture space; an expansion of a public gallery to accommodate larger exhibitions; improvements to the photography area; a drawing/2D design studio; a 3D design studio; a media lab; and a suite of working artists’ studios for visual arts majors in all media to make and display their work.

David Ogawa, associate professor and chair of the Visual Arts Department, said it was important to preserve as much of the building’s historic character as possible. He’s excited about the expansive, light-filled space and the possibilities it presents for students to create and learn about art.

“The project is a real transformation in the visual arts at Union,” he said. “We have had a very strong, comprehensive program for many years, and our new building will enable us to do even more.”

Joining the Taylor Music Center, the Yulman Theater and the Henle Dance Pavilion, the Feigenbaum Center for Visual Arts completes a vibrant arts corridor designed to attract not only students interested in the arts, but future engineers, physicists and chemists.

“Seeing first-hand what goes on in our studios undoubtedly will open possibilities for students that they may have never arrived at,” said Fernando Orellana, associate professor of visual arts.

Prior to the renovation, Orellana and the digital arts lab were based in the F.W. Olin Center. While that helped foster interdisciplinary research because of the proximity to engineering, moving the lab to the new space offers additional opportunities.

“Now the engineering and science students and faculty are coming over to the Visual Arts building, which further exposes them to creativity, not just from digital art, but from all the other disciplines as well,” he said.

Lorraine Cox, associate professor of visual arts and director of faculty development, said the new space creates a more cohesive atmosphere for the 13 faculty and staff that comprise the Department of Visual Arts.

“People can now see the diversity of what we have to offer,” she said.

The department is planning a series of events throughout the academic year to celebrate the new space. The exhibits will showcase the works of students and alumni. Click here for more information.

Faculty and staff worked closely with Facilities Services, Academic Affairs and architects on the project. The department was scattered all over campus during the renovation. Some changes to the curriculum were also necessary to accommodate the renovations.

“Our new art building sings,” said Sandy Wimer, a senior lecturer who teaches printmaking, drawing, etching and design.

“It was worth all the blood, sweat and tears it took to make it the wonderful environment I think it will be for students to create all kinds of art.”