Students, staff settling into newly remodeled facilities off campus
Juan Cantu, a 19-year-old freshman majoring in architecture, boards a bus every Monday and Wednesday for his 4 p.m. class located three miles away at the University’s
“The commute to the building is 15 minutes long but it is definitely worth it,”
What was once a Wal-Mart now serves more than 440 art majors and houses facilities for studio art as well as classroom space for art history, graphic design, and art education.
The building underwent renovation last semester, with art faculty offices and various departments being relocated to the UTPA Haggar Building on East Freddy Gonzalez Drive. The new Annex was completed at the end of July. UTPA faculty spent the summer packing and moving to the South Closner location, which has more space, new furniture, and
The Art Department has been in existence for 40 years at the University. Originally, painting and drawing classes were located in the Fine Arts Complex next to the auditorium while ceramics and jewelry-making were in what was called the Fine Arts Annex, a small building next to the auditorium. The complex and annex are now in the process of
The Annex has put all the departments under the same roof for the first time, which Susan Fitzsimmons, a professor and department chair for the Art Annex, says will unify the departments and allow for cooperation between programs.
Workshops in the building are equipped with welding and power tools for sculpture, a full print-making studio, a darkroom for developing film, and a re-designed ceramics work space.
Students can work in several open studio spaces from 8 a.m.-10 p.m, but are not allowed to work unsupervised in the workshops.
A hall of studios makes up one corridor to serve the 22 graduate students enrolled in the Master of Fine Arts program. At the far end of the building, a small student lounge offers a space to relax between classes. A gallery space has been incorporated into the main hall to house exhibitions so students don’t have to go far to see art
“It’s like a whole new building just for arts,” Cantu said. “It’s specific to the art majors and isn’t generalized.”
However, some students have not welcomed the building with the same warmth. Ramiro Adames, a junior majoring in graphic design, doesn’t like its location away from the main campus.
“Now that all my classes are over here, I don’t have any reason to go over there (to the University) except to print my work,” he explains. “They haven’t set up the printers or computer labs here yet and for graphic design you have to print a lot of things. I think that should be available by now so we don’t have to use up our gas going over there just to print.”
Some students complained about the lack of amenities such as trash cans and seating outside classrooms. Computer labs for digital-art focused courses were not available for the first month of class, but were set up this week.
Despite the initial disorder associated with moving to a new facility, Fitzsimmons is excited about the transformation the Annex
“The facility is beyond our expectations,” she said. “Everything is state-of-the-art and top-notch.”
In this new building she said she sees UTPA’s commitment to the arts, and expressed her gratitude to President Robert Nelsen and College of Arts and Humanities Dean
“Without their support and vision this would never have happened,” Fitzsimmons concluded.
The Art Department will show off its new facility with an open house Nov. 9 at 9 a.m. until 3 p.m. The event is open to the public.