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Pomona College Plans a Vibrant New Center for Studio Art

New studio art building design

New studio art building design

The 36,000-square-foot center will include space for classrooms, studios, labs and exhibitions, as well as a shared technology area. It also will have a rooftop terrace, a hall for lectures and performances and a lounge, which will be used for arts-related activities and campus-wide gatherings.

The 36,000-square-foot center will include space for classrooms, studios, labs and exhibitions, as well as a shared technology area. It also will have a rooftop terrace, a hall for lectures and performances and a lounge, which will be used for arts-related activities and campus-wide gatherings.

Exterior hallways were designed for student interaction, critique space and overflow of artistic activities from the studios.

Exterior hallways were designed for student interaction, critique space and overflow of artistic activities from the studios.

The new studio art center on the east side of campus will do more than provide much-needed space for Pomona's student and faculty artists. The planning and design also reflect a more modern, integrated vision of the arts and an interdisciplinary approach to teaching.

Plans call for a 36,000-square-foot building to be built just north of Seaver Theatre. The open and airy hall, full of light and glass, will surround a central courtyard and feature roomy studios, common areas for students to critique and display their works as well as socialize, and cutting-edge equipment to reflect the expansion of art forms during the past half-century.

"Architecture is really a reflection of attitudes and values and belief systems," says Michael O'Malley, associate professor of art and sculpture. "This new building is going to reflect a different ethos and different way of thinking about art."

One new value that the center will uphold is the emphasis on sustainability. Designed by Culver City-based wHY Architecture to be energy-efficient, the building as planned will employ solar photovoltaics, solar hot water heaters and low-volume lighting to use as few resources as possible. Even the location of the building on an existing parking lot reflects the College's goal of preserving existing green space. Project Manager Andrea Ramella expects the building to achieve a minimum rating of "gold" from the U.S. Green Building Council's LEED certification program.

The planning and design was made possible by a gift from the estate of Pamela Creighton '79. An art major, Creighton was passionate about her work as a painter, says classmate Michael Segal '79. "A number of Pamela's classmates, including Janet Benton, Karen Sisson, Minott Wessinger and me, remember her with great fondness. We now also share a deep appreciation for the gift from her estate to foster a studio art center, which will give the arts a new life at Pomona and provide a vibrant hub for young artists and for the entire campus community," says Segal.

Another value espoused by all who have participated in the planning stages is that of more interaction among the artistic disciplines. In the past, says Professor of Photography Sheila Pinkel, students in one area would have little contact with students in another. “The new facility is organized for a lot more dynamic interaction," she says. "Philosophically, the studio is going in the direction of interdisciplinary dialogue."

The center will offer another much-needed benefit: more space. It will more than double the square footage of Rembrandt. The venerable hall, which has been home to studio art since 1914, will eventually be repurposed for another use by the College. At Rembrandt, the space crunch has forced Pinkel to move critiques--sessions in which students comment on one another's work--into the hallway. In addition to providing semi-public spaces for critiques, the generous space and updated facilities in the new center also will greatly expand student's freedom in choosing scale, materials and techniques. Pinkel looks forward to the big digital printers and large-format cameras that will allow her students to ramp up the size of images they create, as well as a shared digital graphics studio with a computer for every student.

The studio art center will be more than just a new home for art students, says O'Malley, noting that the courtyard and other common areas were designed to attract all students from Pomona and the other Claremont Colleges. Part of Pomona's new ethos, says O'Malley, is to make the arts--music, theatre and dance as well as the visual arts--more visible. The new center will further this artistic enrichment of the College's daily life. "It's going to be a magnet for our community," O'Malley says.

Throughout the transition and upgrade period, members of the faculty will continue their mission to help students find their own voices in art, a value that supersedes all others in Pomona's current approach to art instruction.

"We all know a lot about the technique and craft of our various disciplines, but we don't lead with that," O'Malley says. "Inscribed within those particular things are ideologies about what art is, and we really want students to decide what it is for themselves."

This article originally appeared in the Summer 2011 Campaign Pomona: Daring Minds newsletter.