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 art 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 of many for the 37,000-square-foot Feigenbaum Center for Visual Arts, dedicated at Homecoming after a year-long renovation.
The facility was supported in part by an $11 million gift from the Feigenbaum Foundation, created by the late brothers Armand V. Feigenbaum ’42 and Donald S. Feigenbaum ‘46, longtime benefactors to Union.
“This is a building that represents everything that makes Union special— innovation, creativity and a deep understanding of the world that surrounds us,” John E. Kelly III ’76, chair of the board of trustees, said during the dedication ceremony.
President Stephen C. Ainlay reminded the audience at the dedication of how much Armand and Donald appreciated the value of convergence learned a Union, blending traditional science and engineering with the liberal arts.
“This was them,” Ainlay said of what the Visual Arts center’s expanded opportunities now offer. “This is exactly what they meant to be able to understand the world. I hope this building stands as a beacon for the Feigenbaum brothers, but also how important the visual arts are in the curriculum of Union College.”
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).
Highlights 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 studios for visual arts majors in all media to make and display their work.
David Ogawa, associate professor of art history and chair of Visual Arts, 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.