Arts & Culture / Mosaic / April 8, 2009

Art department feeling the squeeze on studio space

Unlike many colleges its size, Knox values providing individual studio space for its art students. “When you’re working in the upper level classes, you really need your own space,” said Jonathan Sulinski, a senior art studio major. “You’re working there outside of class on your own hours and need to make sure people don’t move your stuff around.”

That need for studio space, however, creates obvious work constraints. In recent years, Knox’s increased enrollment has also meant an increase of art students. More studio art classes, especially upper level, have been added to accommodate the heightened demand, but with this comes a necessity for additional room to work and display art.

“There have been a lot of space conflicts,” said Sulinski, recalling that as recently as last year things were less cramped than currently. “Clay and sculpture work in 3D and on a large scale.”

Mark Holmes, an art professor at Knox for the past five years, is enthused by the growing interest in the art department.

“It’s a good thing we have all these students needing space,” said Holmes. However, he also acknowledges the spatial challenges this poses. “Storage is an ongoing issue.”

More space was found late last year when the art department moved into the basement of the Auxiliary Gym. After cleaning out old junk and leaves, giving everything a fresh coat of paint and replacing the lighting, several of its rooms are now studios for upper level art classes. Sulinski, who works there regularly, said, “It’s not bad,” and had few complaints about the space.

Holmes said the department also “reorganized studios to provide more space and clear out the clutter. Overall it’s tight, but we’re managing.”

The growing need for individual workspace is a problem likely to remain exclusive to upper level art students. According to Holmes, beginning and intermediate classes, which work almost exclusively in the painting and art studios, are not governed solely by spatial constraints but by professor to student ratios.

“There is a need for a 1-on-1 basis. Even if there was twice as much space, classes would be about the same size,” said Holmes.

Outside of finding room to work, art studio majors have also struggled in the past year to find places to display completed works. Fulfilling this need is The Box, a building located just off Knox campus. Owned by Holmes, a large segment was recently transformed into an art gallery. Described as “a great space” by Selena Jones, a post-baccalaureate who does much of her artwork there, The Box will soon be used to display all of the senior studio art shows.

“It’s really good for the larger works,” said Jones, adding that it was particularly desirable for site-specific works requiring installation. “Otherwise you’d have to use the Round Room, which doesn’t have much space.”

Holmes was appreciative of the fact that The Box offers a place for students to display their work for the public.

“It’s hard for students to have to photograph their work and then just get rid of it,” said Holmes. As of next year, the college will officially sponsor The Box.

Most feel their other efforts to find more studio space have also received support.

“We’ve gone out and solved our own problems and taken over bits and pieces of space where we’ve found them. We have to take the initiative but the administration has been supportive of that. They understand our needs,” said Holmes.

That initiative has resulted in space that, although crowded, is supposedly on par or better than the studio room offered by many graduate programs.

Although the basement of the Auxiliary Gym is already at capacity, Holmes remains optimistic. “Any department has space limitations. We’re realistic about ours. To have any individual working space for the students is incredibly unique,” said Holmes.

Noting that three art studio students will be attending graduate school, a higher number than in recent years, Jones said that, “we’re a good program, we’re progressing as a department.”

That progress can be seen in the Auxiliary Gym basement. Art projects cover walls, hang from unfinished ceilings, and twine around pipes, brightening what would otherwise be merely abandoned space. The need for room to work, display, and store projects will likely always be an issue within the department, but as Holmes points out, for now, “It’s working.”

Katy Sutcliffe

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