The Journey

Professors, Alumni and Students Let Go and Embrace New Art Building
By Lauren Klees

Embracing something new also means being able to let go of the old. Whitworth alumni, professors and students are dealing with the bittersweet feelings of saying goodbye to the old art building as they learn to welcome the new one.

Some are looking forward to the new facility because it will be up-to-date and more spacious. There is, however, a sadness that comes with the move, with the current building scheduled for demolition within the next year. However, all agree that the new facility is needed because the current art building is in poor condition, and is literally falling apart.

Scott Kolbo, associate art professor and chair of the art building design committee, says he's seen bugs crawl out of the walls in the basement. In addition, the ventilation is poor, the rooms are cramped and the ceiling and basement leak, he says. Not all rooms are equipped with sinks, which makes clean up frustrating for students in ceramics or painting courses. Kolbo says students call the current art building "the dungeon."

Ground breaking for the new structure began in the summer of 2007, and it scheduled to open for classes in September 2008.

Alumna, Andrea Tuinstra, '94, earned her bachelor's degree at Whitworth, and said it was difficult for her to hear that the art building she once took classes in will be taken down. She currently lives in Spokane, where she works on ceramics in her private studio. Her art is displayed in galleries in Sandpoint, Idaho and Atlanta. "There was a closeness of community," she says, referring to the current building. "I felt like I was not treated like another number, but a person."

However, Tuinstra believes the new facility will be a wonderful asset to the university. "The new art building will be geared towards the art community and in teaching art in a proper space. The new building will fit the needs for painting and printmaking," says Tuinstra.

Future students have much to look forward to with the new art building because it will be far better equipped for the students' needs, says Kolbo. The new art building is 20,000-square-feet and is being built in the location of the old print shop and mail center.

Unlike the current building, its ventilation system, large storage rooms for supplies and gallery will be twice the size of the current one. Kolbo says, "The gallery is going to have big windows to let in natural light for students." He adds, "It will be an impressive architectural place with high ceilings.

"Students are excited about the new computer lab," for example, he says. Graphic design students presently use computers in the Library because not enough computers are available in the art building. Future art students will be blessed with their own departmental computer lab, Kolbo adds.

Even though the new building will enrich the university's art department with new equipment such as a computer lab, there is still a feeling of loss among alumni who do not want to forget the memories made in the old art building.

Shelly Plummer, '83 will miss the current building's warm and inviting atmosphere. However, she understands the university's decision to build a new art facility. "Things change and life goes on," says Plummer. She began her college career as an art history student at Whitworth, but later changed her major to math/physics. Deciding to return to her love for art, Plummer began a small arts and crafts business 20 years ago in Anchorage, Alaska, where she currently works.

Plummer adds, "It will be different coming back to visit and not being able to see the art building I once took classes in."

Senior art student, Elizabeth Johnson says she will miss the old art building because it is close to her heart. Johnson has spent much of her time in the building. Her mom even took art classes in the same facility, so it is understandable why she is sentimental. "Sure, it's not a very glamorous building, but it's so personal," says Johnson. "My decision to come to Whitworth as an art major was more influenced by the community and other broader issues, and I didn't care about the art building's shortcomings," Johnson adds.

Difficult as it may be for alumni and seniors to see the current art building demolished, the new facility is expected to enrich the Whitworth campus.

Kolbo says he hopes more people will come over to the gallery, which will also host music ensembles and film screenings.

Johnson is also looking forward to the new building. "The current Koehler Gallery is somewhat embarrassing," says Johnson. She greatly welcomes "the opportunity for students to show their work in a nice gallery for junior and senior exhibits."

Future Whitworth students not only have a new gallery to look forward to, but new studio-classrooms. Kolbo's colleague, Associate Professor Gordon Wilson says the "Faculty will also have studio-offices, and they will be large enough to be used as a small studio or demonstration area.

"We expect to be of greater service to the surrounding community with higher quality exhibits, more outreach, summer exhibits and significant visiting artists," Wilson adds.

The art faculty, students and alumni know that the new art facility will heighten Whitworth's program. And they know too that the day the new building opens, multiple new memories will begin taking root.