New Art and Design Building Update

STORY BY LAURA KRUG

VIDEO BY LEXI GROSS

As Fort Hays State University students have entered into the first weeks of the fall semester, a lucky group of art and design students have had the chance to enjoy an entirely new building on campus. The two-story, 43,000 square foot facility provides larger classrooms and a modern open concept full of floor to ceiling windows; the first floor of Rarick Hall is becoming a distant memory for the department. Most of the construction on the new building was completed during July and it was a race against time for professors to prepare the classrooms for the fall. Karrie Simpson-Voth, the art department chair, was the leader in the effort to move her whole department, and has rightfully dubbed herself “the chaos coordinator”. Despite minor technical difficulties with TVs in the classrooms and small water leaks near the doors during the Hays flooding, it has been a smooth transition into the first weeks of school. 

Voth is excited to see the potential of the new space and the positive effect it has on students. “The new art building has so many things that it did not before. Most importantly for the students, we have the commons area, which is something we have been lacking, we had no space like that in the other building. It is amazing to have the bright colors and the space to collaborate.” The grand opening of the new Moss-Thorns gallery space in the historic power plant building will be during homecoming week, along with an open house for alumni. The gallery is a bright, two-story open space with exposed brick accents and is connected to the main art building via a covered walkway. An emphasis will be placed on the display of art, and the department will host a larger variety of shows during the year along with student and faculty shows. Interior Design Professor Colin Schmidtberger will be the director of the gallery.

Professor Brian Hutchinson is one of the instructors who made the transition to a new teaching space in the new Center for Art and Design. He teaches Art Education classes as well as foundational studies such as basic design and drawing. Hutchinson’s new space is on the second floor of the building and overlooks the quad; his old classroom in Rarick was without windows.“The classrooms have nice high ceilings and a sense of space that is very accommodating. The overall design is cool, but also works out for our ergonomic needs as well.” As a member of the Art department’s recruitment team, he has already seen a positive impact on prospective students who come to visit the space. “When they see that we have top-notch faculty, a beautiful facility, and how well this university and community supports the fine arts I think that students are going to have an easier time deciding which college will be the best for them.” This will be Hutchinson’s second year as an instructor at FHSU; he is one of several new members of the art department. Other faculty who have been hired to the Art department within the past two years include professors: Jee Hwang (Painting), Travis Schlitter (Motion Graphics), Nicholas Simko (Photography.)

One of the majors that has seen a significant change in the classroom setting is graphic design. Student Morgan Choitz is a Junior/Senior graphic design major who is inspired by the changes made in the classrooms. “All of the new equipment is specialized for graphic design or for photography, painting and drawing. I really get to understand more about what I’m doing… when everything is brand new.” There are now four dedicated graphic design classrooms and a graduate student studio space. Two of the rooms are computer labs and two are classrooms which include a green room and a product photography space.      

The new building has yet to receive a name and will remain the Center for Art and Design until a $5 million dollar endowment is made. The inspiring space has allowed the FHSU art department to expand not only its classroom space but also the creative possibilities of the students who work there everyday. 

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