Frequently Asked Questions
A bold vision for the study and exhibition of the visual arts at Kenyon is coming to life in the heart of the campus.
Two buildings — one for studio art and one devoted to art history and exhibitions — will create venues for Kenyon students to achieve their full potential in close collaboration with faculty. The setting emphasizes the importance of the visual arts in a liberal arts education.
The studio art building will bring together the classrooms, studios, shops, and studio exhibition spaces essential to Kenyon's dynamic art program. Ample, well-equipped facilities will support every medium, from drawing to digital art. For the first time, the College will have resources equal to the talents and aspirations of its student and faculty artists.
The art history/exhibition building will give the campus an extraordinary cultural center, connecting the entire College and engaging the larger community. These facilities will provide Kenyon with complete facilities for the study of art history. And an array of exhibition space, special-purpose classrooms, and study areas will help generate the inquiry and creative expression that reflect the liberal arts ideal.To shed more light on these transformative projects, the College provides some answers to common questions.
- Why are these art facilities important to Kenyon?
- Who has participated in the planning for these projects?
- Where will the buildings be located?
- What makes these the optimum sites?
- What are the construction costs?
- What is the construction timetable?
- How will these projects be environmentally friendly?
Kenyon has needed an upgrade in facilities for teaching the visual arts for more than forty years. In that time, the arts have been shuttled among at least ten different homes, none particularly well-suited for the disciplines. At times, including today, the departments have found themselves in five different sites.
In 2000, when the College was last reviewed for re-accreditation, the reviewing team made this recommendation: "We recommend that the College soon find the resources to move the Art Department faculty and studio spaces from their isolation at the north end of campus onto the south campus, ideally in new facilities near the other fine arts departments."
The master plan approved by the Board of Trustees in April 2004 emphasized the importance of academic facilities in the campus core. Recognizing the need, the trustees endorsed the concept of two art buildings and two of our alumni responded with gifts of $10 million each.
Specific planning for new arts facilities began in 2004. Faculty members in the departments of Art History and Studio Art played a key role. A task force, formed in 2006, focused on exhibition-space design. The task force was headed by then-Provost Gregory Spaid, a visual artist who has returned to the faculty as a professor of art. During planning, representatives from Bowdoin College, the College of Wooster, the Columbus Museum of Art, Oberlin College, and Ohio State University's Wexner Center visited the campus to consult with faculty. Kenyon representatives visited art museums at Boston College, Brandeis University, MIT, Wellesley College, and Wooster.
The project architects, of the Gund Partnership of Cambridge, Massachusetts, have visited the campus many times in the last two years and held three Common Hour presentations to share and discuss the designs. Architects have also consulted the art and art history faculty and representatives of other College departments and offices. Claudia Esslinger, professor of studio art, said, "We know that these buildings are the fulfillment of several decades of requests to bring us closer to the main center of activity on campus for greater interaction with and contribution to the liberal arts here and to improve our impoverished facilities. Our sister colleges have mostly accomplished this in the intervening time, and we are increasingly less attractive because of our insufficient facilities."
The studio art building will be west of Chalmers Library and south of Sunset Cottage. The art history/exhibition building will rise between Cromwell Cottage and the Olin and Chalmers libraries.
Several sites for the buildings were considered by the College. Keeping the buildings close to each other on the central campus became a priority, given the convenience for students and the importance of prominent space dedicated to the visual arts.Paul Goldberger, a Kenyon trustee, author, and the architecture critic for the New Yorker, called the site selection "the best combination of qualities." He described the sites this way: "These two sites allowed the buildings to be close enough to each other to create a visual arts area, but at the same time they permitted the art gallery to have a prominent public position facing Middle Path, while the studio art building could be in a more private, less conspicuous location. The area between Cromwell Cottage and the library, while a pleasing open space, might almost be considered too open: Cromwell is set far back from Middle Path, with almost as much open space around it as a country villa, while the library might be said to be too forward, excessively conspicuous on Middle Path. Having a handsome, understated new building between Cromwell and the library could be a modulating force, creating a smoother transition between buildings, and a more even rhythm along Middle Path. "
Construction of the buildings is estimated to cost $39 million. More than $30 million has been raised from alumni and friends of the College, the Ohio Cultural Facilities Commission, the Community Foundation of Mount Vernon and Knox County, the Kresge Foundation, and others. No tuition dollars are being used for these projects.
Kenyon has made a significant commitment to environmentally friendly, energy-efficient construction. Thomas Lepley, director of facilities planning, estimated that the College will save 8 to 12 percent in energy costs by using green building practices. The impact goes beyond a reduction in utility costs. "The quality design and construction of these buildings lessens their impact on the environment," Lepley said, "which means the whole world benefits."
The College is seeking silver certification under the Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) rating system for both buildings. The certification levels are certified, silver, gold, and platinum. LEED is the nationally recognized standard for the design, construction, and operation of green buildings. Kenyon will receive credits toward certification by satisfying criteria that govern five areas: sustainable site development, water efficiency, energy efficiency, materials selection, and indoor environmental quality.
The College is a good steward of the campus environment and places great value on its trees. Some trees had to be removed to create space for these projects. Between 8,000 and 10,000 trees enhance and shelter the College. On the main campus alone, in recent years, more than 700 trees have been planted, in accordance with our Tree Management Program. Kenyon strives to plant two trees for every tree which is lost and replaces like species with like. Every effort is made to make use of the wood of our trees, and some of the wood taken from these building sites will be used for flooring in a new residence hall.