As the University of Arizona School of Art celebrates the completion of a two-part major renovation project, Director Colin Blakely said the improvements are already showcasing the “amazing energy and work” of students and faculty.
During the second phase, the Visual Resource Center and Art & Visual Education classroom have been renovated along with the Sculpture wing and new administrative offices in the School of Art building.
A future phase could include renovation of the Visual Arts Graduate Research Laboratory to accommodate studio spaces for faculty and visiting artists, as well as the creation of a new collaborative learning space in support of larger general education classes taught by the school that serve a significant number of non-major students.
The first phase, finished in March, transformed the main lobby of the School of Art as well as the shared courtyard for the school and the art museum – both buildings date back to the 1950s – to create a welcoming patio and more open space.
“From day one, this new space has lived up to all we hoped it would be,” Blakely said. “It is a constant bustle of activity, bringing the amazing energy and work being done in the school front and center.”
The Lionel Rombach Gallery was moved from an interior location with no outside visibility to the front of the new space so that student art is now the first thing visitors see when entering the building. The main entrance was transformed to make the school more visible by changing the largely brick entrance to a glass entryway and moving the First-Year Experience studios to the front of the building.
The building also now features “hangout spaces” for students to relax, socialize and collaborate, including the new outdoor patio. The space was designed to be flexible enough to easily accommodate presentations, lectures and large events.
“Whether hosting an ABOR (Arizona Board of Regents) reception, a pop-up salon showcasing student work or simply serving as a space for informal congregation and collaboration, (the renovation) has increased the visibility of our work in critical ways,” Blakely said.
Construction began in summer 2021, thanks to a significant donation by Marcia Grand, for whom the Marcia Grand First Year Experience Annex is named for.
The project is part of the Arizona Arts Master Plan and the Arizona Advantage pillar of the University’s strategic plan, which calls on the University to “integrate the arts throughout the university experience and beyond.”
Andy Ober of University Communications contributed to this story.