Visual Arts Center opening rounds out Arts District
By Jennifer Dalecki, The Dartmouth Staff
Published on Friday, September 14, 2012
More than two years after construction began in spring 2010, the Black Family Visual Arts Center will officially open its doors to the Dartmouth community on Friday. United with the Hopkins Center and Hood Museum of Art by the Maffei Family Arts Plaza, the VAC will complete the College’s new Arts District, which has the potential to become a new hub of student and community life on the south end of campus.
The VAC will house the entire studio art and film and media studies departments, providing new classrooms and faculty offices as well as areas for student art innovation and display, according to studio art department chair Colleen Randall.
Approximately 700 students take classes in studio art and 600 in film and media studies each year, according to Randall and film and media studies chair Amy Lawrence. With the increased space and resources that will result from the move to the VAC, both the studio art and film and media studies departments anticipate departmental growth.
Vacated spaces previously used by the studio art and film and media studies departments will be utilized by other arts departments, according to music department chair Michael Casey. The College is working with the music and theater departments as well as the Hopkins Center to formulate new ways to use the space, he said. Hood director Michael Taylor said that empty areas in Wilson Hall will be remodeled to double the Hood’s gallery space in order to place more of the College’s collection on display and bring more students to study at the museum.
Students echoed faculty excitement surrounding the VAC’s new resources, acknowledging the likelihood of growth in arts departments.
With the improved facilities, students may be more likely to try Drawing I or Sculpture I, according to studio art major Ayda Ramadan ’13. The resources of the VAC may also attract prospective students to come to Dartmouth to study the arts, she said.
Film and media studies major and co-president of Stories Growing Film Jonathan Sigworth ’12 said he thinks that the VAC will encourage students with an interest in the visual arts to not only take more classes, but also get involved with student art organizations.
“The fact that there now exists a building dedicated to teaching and exhibiting of visual arts means that new student organizations that focus on film and media, such as Stories Growing Films, Savage Media, Dartmouth Television and Bazaar, will have a much easier time recruiting students and raising general student interest,” Sigworth said.
Taylor added that the expansion and renovation of art facilities at Dartmouth shows that the College is prioritizing the importance of arts in a liberal arts education.
“To have a new VAC and to have the Hood and Hop entering into periods of expansion and renovation bodes well for the arts,” Taylor said. “I think there will be spike in student interest.”
With the new Maffei Family Arts Plaza bridging the College’s campus and the downtown Hanover area, business owners and those living on Lebanon Street also foresee future benefits of the Arts District.
Leif Harder ’15, who lives in the Lodge residence hall, predicts that the VAC will improve his residential experience.
“I am looking forward to having the VAC as a nearby place to utilize for studying,” Harder said. “I think that it will bring more students to the south end of campus, which will make living in the Lodge feel less isolated and less separated from campus than it feels now.”
Rosey Jekes owner Kenny Fabrikant said that in the past, people would look down Lebanon Street and keep walking, but now the VAC and expanding art facilities will help attract customers .
“The new building validates Lebanon Street as the second major throughway in town,” Fabrikant said. “Selfishly, I feel that it will be very good for our building because the campus is now on Lebanon Street.”
Suzanne Jones, director of craft studies at the New Hampshire Craftsmen League, said she has already noticed more people on Lebanon Street.
“During Orientation week, we saw more students and families heading in this direction,” Jones said. “We feel that the art facilities will continue to draw more traffic to this end of town.”
The official dedication of the VAC will take place Friday at 4:30 p.m. in the Maffei Family Arts Plaza.