It’s a great time for Mac painters, potters, and printmakers. Renewed energy first hit the Art and Art History Department last fall when the initial stage of renovation of the Janet Wallace Fine Arts Center brought the department a new art gallery, visual resources library, and art history classrooms.

This winter, with construction of a studio art wing beginning—and expected to be completed within a year—there’s even more buzz. Art faculty and staff have met regularly with Minneapolis’s HGA Architects and Engineers to plan the project and customize the studios and teaching and meeting spaces.

Project highlights include spacious studios, a 2D design suite, a student gallery, and a new third floor. “These are crucial, much-needed renovations that signal our college’s deep commitment to the arts,” says President Brian Rosenberg.

People are taking notice, says art professor Chris Willcox. “Art students, faculty, and staff are excited and hopeful about this significant investment in arts programming,” says Willcox, who teaches painting. “I’ve had many prospective students talk to me about taking studio art classes because of this higher degree of exposure and visibility.”

Back in the ’60s when the Janet Wallace Fine Arts Center first opened, Mac’s art program was significantly smaller, Willcox explains. Thus in recent years the department has been forced to retrofit its space to accommodate more students than were ever imagined half a century ago. “Students have been crowded in the current studio spaces, and some are turned away each semester because of space restrictions,” she says. “We hope to retain the smaller class sizes that Macalester is known for, while also slightly expanding enrollment in individual classes to accommodate student demand.”

In addition to bringing more students into the spaces, a studio for senior art majors and state-of-the-art technology throughout the building will enhance the quality of the overall student experience. Says professor and printmaker Ruthann Godollei: “We have wonderful students, and this will give them the space and facilities to do their best work.”

Rebecca Dejarlais ’06 is a staff writer for Macalester Today

January 30 2013

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