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North Art Studios

ArtStudiosExterior.jpgOpened: 1976
Cost: $650,000

In the fall of 1975, University administrators proposed the construction of a new art facility to replace the outdated and sometimes even unsafe conditions of the studios located in Pearce Hall and Ronan Hall. The building was originally projected to cost $500,000, although that figure expanded to $650,000 by the time of completion. The building was financed completely through private funds, including private gifts from the Kresge Foundation of Troy and the Dow Foundation of Midland. Additional funds were collected by Central Michigan University’s One Point Five development campaign.

The building was designed by Alden B. Dow Associates of Midland. Dow was the son of Herbert H. Dow and a well-respected architect who worked under Frank Lloyd Wright and had worked on over 800 buildings at the time of his appointment, several of which were located in the state of Michigan. Dow also designed Foust Hall, the Health Services building on campus that had been completed in 1973. The new art building was designed as a large, single story A-frame structure rising to a peak of about 50 feet. With a partial balcony inside, half of the interior would be open to a series of skylights across the roof while the other half would contain a loft for office space and machinery. Totaling 13,000 square feet, the distinctive building also featured an exterior clad in Corten steel, which was designed to age in a very colorful rust pattern over the first five years following its installation and remain maintenance free afterward, although it failed to meet this expectation. The interior was designed as a wood frame with laminated timber and wood decking. Plans also included a provision for an entrance on the north side of the building that would connect the structure to Wightman Hall.

ArtStudiosInterior.jpgAlthough construction ran behind, the building was completed in 1976, and students and faculty began making use of this fully capable art studio right away. The studio contained space and materials for three dimensional art instruction, kiln and plaster rooms, and areas for mixing clay and glazing pottery. There was additional studio-related space and extra space for storage. A gallery was also included as part of the proposed project, but this was eventually moved to the UC Annex building due to a lack of space in the new building.

The North Art Studios, as faculty within the Art Department were already calling the building even before it opened, became one of several buildings within which the Art Department taught and practiced their creative skills across campus. It was not until the construction of the IET Building a decade later that the department would be consolidated into the North Art Studios and the adjacent Wightman Hall. During this renovation project, the roof and siding of the North Art Studios were replaced. Although the original roof was designed to provide its own protection through a special rust-based coating, it failed to last the expected twenty years and was completely replaced at a cost of $128,000.