State of the ArtGAMBIER, Ohio (Septmeber 11, 2012)
"Amazing" seems to be the adjective of choice this semester among Kenyon's studio art students and professors. With good reason: they're still marveling at a brand new building where everything - space, light, equipment, technology - dramatically advances the process of artistic creation.
Horvitz Hall, with its expansive north-facing windows and spacious teaching studios, opened for the start of the academic year on August 30. The three-level building provides modern facilities for media ranging from painting, drawing, sculpture, and printmaking to photography, installation art, and digital art, including video and animation. It also boasts state-of-the-art safety features.
"Kenyon had never before designed a building specifically for all of the studio arts that we teach," said Professor of Art Gregory Spaid. "With this building and the Gund Gallery, we can now say: Kenyon is completely invested in the visual arts."
The improvements include features both conspicuous and less obvious. The north windows, spanning two floors, bring ample but even light into large classroom studios for printmaking, drawing, painting, and digital art. (Shades can dampen the lighting, and the computer-filled digital classrooms have blackout shades.) The sculpture and photography areas on the lower level give onto an ample patio via large glass garage-style doors.
Wall sections in various parts of the building are backed with plywood, so that students and professors can tack or nail up artwork for evaluation - the "critique wall" being a central activity in teaching. Many areas, including a room for constructing installations and a professional lighting studio complete with a "green screen," have highly specialized lights and lighting controls.
Safety measures range from easy-to-use eyewash stations throughout the building, to stainless steel hoods and ducts, to emergency stop buttons in every room with power equipment, to rooftop "strobic fans" that propel fumes high into the air.
The building's name recognizes a $11.5 million gift from Trustee Emeritus David W. Horvitz '74 H'98 and his wife, photographer Francie Bishop Good, as part of the recent "We Are Kenyon" campaign. The College will dedicate the building during Trustee Weekend, with an open house on October 25 and a formal ceremony on October 26.
Horvitz Hall, which cost $22 million, has 41,540 square feet, compared to a total of 28,339 square feet in the buildings previously housing studio art facilities - Bexley and Colburn halls, the Mayer Art Center (the art barn), and Harcourt Hall (the preschool building near the water tower). Students representing a wide range of interests and majors take studio art courses. In recent years, the program has enrolled between 146 and 193 students per semester.
Faculty members think that the new building may generate an increase in course enrollments, and not only because the facilities are so much better. They're also much more conveniently located. While Bexley and the other old art buildings were isolated on the northern edge of campus, Horvitz Hall brings the visual arts to Kenyon's academic core. An easy stroll takes students to Horvitz from Lentz House or Sunset Cottage, the library, the Gund Gallery, Storer Hall, or the science quad (via a new pathway circling the back of the College cemetery).
"I love being near everybody else," said Professor of Art Claudia Esslinger. "We'll be able to collaborate more with other departments."
Bexley Hall will - and won't - be missed. "I loved Bexley," said Emily Zeller '08, an art major who has returned this year as the Mesaros Visiting Artist and contemporary technology specialist. "But art was always retrofitted into the building. Now we have a building that was built for art. It's a huge change."