Hamilton Trustees Authorize Next Step for New Arts Facilities

The Hamilton College board of trustees has taken the next step leading to the creation of new arts facilities on the Hamilton campus.

Last month in New York, following a three-hour plenary session devoted to long-term planning for the arts at Hamilton, the trustees endorsed a three-building configuration. Included in the planning are a new theatre on the north side of College Hill Road adjacent to Dunham Residence Hall and a new studio arts building next to a new gallery/museum, both on the south side of College Hill Road. The museum and the studio arts buildings would be on property adjacent to the Molly Root House where the Department of Art History is housed currently.
The board also authorized the college's officers to enter into a contract with the project's architect for schematic design services. Detailed drawings of the new facilities are expected in about six to eight months. Hamilton is actively seeking funds to construct the three new buildings.

"Each of these facilities is being designed to enhance student learning through active and hands-on instruction in the arts," said Sam Pellman, professor of music and faculty coordinator of arts facilities planning. "Once constructed, these facilities will transform arts instruction at Hamilton and serve as models for how space can facilitate learning in the arts."

Allied Works, led by Brad Cloepfil, plans on creating an "arts neighborhood," and the siting of the three buildings on both sides of College Hill Road is intended to further unify the north and south campuses. Allied Works also envisions expanding the pond on the Molly Root property and extending the features of the Root Glen westward to the site of the new buildings. Under the plan currently under consideration, the road that serves as the entrance to the South Campus would be relocated to the west side of the Molly Root house.

Allied Works will collaborate with landscape architects Reed Hilderbrand to site the facilities and extend the features of the Root Glen.

Founded in 1994 by Brad Cloepfil, Allied Works Architecture is a firm of 40 architects and support staff with offices in Portland, Ore., and New York, N.Y. Known for the integrity of its design and detailing, Allied Works creates dramatic and moving spaces. The firm has a varied portfolio that includes museums, residential work, and a performing and visual arts school.  Among its significant museum commissions are The Contemporary Art Museum St. Louis, the Seattle Art Museum, the University of Michigan Museum of Art and the redesign of 2 Columbus Circle for the Museum of Arts and Design.

In addition to its work on museums, other Allied Works projects include the Weiden + Kennedy Advertising Agency headquarters in Portland, Ore., and the Sun Valley Residence in Sun Valley, Idaho. Projects currently in design include a major renovation and expansion of the Booker T. Washington High School for the Performing and Visual Arts, which is located alongside other important architectural buildings in the Dallas Arts District, in Dallas Texas, and a main house, guest house, gallery and artists' studios located on 350 acres in Dutchess County, N.Y., for art collectors with an extensive contemporary art collection.

The Teaching and Learning Museum at Hamilton College
A new gallery/museum is one of two buildings being planned for the south side of College Hill Road on land adjacent to the Molly Root House. It would replace the current Emerson Gallery located on the first floor of Christian A. Johnson Hall. Ian Berry, consulting director of the Emerson Gallery, envisions an entirely new paradigm for how students and faculty members will interact with objects.

"We are imagining something that has no model," he told alumni, parents and trustees gathered recently in New York. "The museum will be a factory for new teaching methods."

In a case statement for the museum, Berry wrote "The current facility can no longer meet the mission of object-based teaching and study for a wide percentage of the campus....The proposal for a new museum is not solely to continue and improve the work of the past but to create an entire new program of visual interrogation, literacy and debate."

John McEnroe, the John and Anne Fischer Professor in Fine Arts, has similar objectives for the new facility. "While every serious modern museum has an education department," McEnroe wrote, "no other art museum takes the active learning experiences of undergraduate students as its central mission."

Initial thinking by Allied Works Architecture envisions more than 7,200 square feet of gallery and exhibit space (which would more than triple the existing space) and 5,850 square feet for preparation and storage (a more than five-fold increase). Additional space for classrooms and offices is also planned.

Studio Arts at Hamilton College
According to its case statement, the studio arts curriculum at Hamilton enables students "to develop fluency with the techniques of drawing, painting, printmaking, darkroom photography, digital photography, sculpture, ceramics and video." Approximately 16-22 Hamilton students graduate each year with a concentration in art and total enrollment in the studio arts averages more than 400 students each year. The college enrolls approximately 1,800 undergraduates.

The new facility includes core areas comprised of a large classroom for drawing and a new foundations course, and an exhibition space for student work.  Surrounding the core, planners envision workshops, studios and support spaces that include a large classroom for painting, a printmaking workshop/classroom, a sculpture classroom, a woodshop, a "hot" workshop for metals and ceramics, a plaster/plastic workshop, a darkroom, and dedicated space for senior projects.

The studio arts facility will also include the interdisciplinary Studio for Transmedia Arts and Related Studies (STARS), which will provide space for students and faculty "to explore the artistic potential of digital technology." A key element of the STARS initiative is a gathering place for students and faculty of all arts disciplines to pursue collaborative work.

The new facility being planned for the south side of campus would double the amount of space for studio arts instruction, with the largest percentage increase coming in the amount of space available for students working on senior projects.

Theatre at Hamilton College
"Theatre is at the heart of the liberal arts experience," according to the mission statement prepared as part of the department's case statement for new facilities.  "It gives students not only the tools with which to approach other disciplines with creativity and rigor, but through the process of creating performance it engenders personal responsibility and empowerment; it develops a sense of community both within the creative ensemble and between performer and audience; it teaches students to recognize and honor difference and diversity; it immerses students in unfamiliar cultures through the performance of their arts; and, it helps students to find and develop their own voices and identities."

"The interaction between faculty and student has a silent third partner, and that is space," said Associate Professor of Theatre Craig Latrell.

Total attendance for each semester's theatre production typically exceeds 600. In addition, theatre courses enroll approximately 260 students at Hamilton each year, including eight to 15 who graduate with a concentration in theatre. The program focuses on performance, scholarship and oral communication skills, according to the department.

The new facility, which would more than double the amount of square footage currently devoted to theatre, will include a fully equipped flexible theatre accommodating 175 people for departmental productions; a more modest "black box" theatre with 100 seats for senior projects, sophomore seminar performance and class projects; a studio space for teaching all courses that have a performance element; a seminar room; and storage and support spaces for scene and costume shops.

Hamilton opened a new Science Center in September 2005 and will break ground in the spring for a major renovation and expansion of its social science facilities. Construction of the new arts facilities will commence when funding is secured.
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