Campus / News / October 29, 2009

Fine arts cope with lack of space

Currently, CFA is home to the theater department, art department, music department and the Office of Admissions. Student programs are vying for space in CFA for rehearsal area, performance space and storage room as their programs continue to grow.

Performance and display space in CFA is limited. The lobby around the Round Room is often used to display artwork, though the space can only be used for certain types of display. Harbach Theatre is used as a main stage performance area for the theatre department, Kresge Recital Hall and Studio Theatre downstairs for student-produced productions. Additionally, CFA offers Jay Rehearsal Hall for groups to practice in. However, it is often booked between the music and theater departments.

Upstairs in CFA, above the Office of Admissions, there are classrooms that double as rehearsal space at night. On the other side of the building, 12 practice rooms for instrumental and vocal music are available to accommodate individual lessons, group rehearsals and lesson practice. As these departments grow, students are able to find less and less space in which to hone their skills.

Art department

“Everyone’s always fighting for space,” said senior art major Heather Kopec. “It’s kind of squatter’s rights.”

A section of the CFA’s basement is home to the art studio, where students can work on their term or independent projects on their own time. Students working on ceramics, paintings, drawings and sculpture all use that area to create and store their works-in-progress. Because the space is so tight, students are not allowed to store their work there. For small projects, students take their work home. For bigger projects, storing their art is not so easy.

“A lot of sculpture students just destroy their work,” said Kopec. After creating the sculptures, they snap photographs for their records, then take apart their work.

Beginning in the spring of 2007, upper-level art majors started moving their projects from the traditional art space into the basement of the Auxiliary Gym. Without adequate lighting or finish, this space is hardly desirable for creating artistic projects.

“You lose all sense of time down there, which can be good and bad,” said Kopec. “It can be hard sometimes.”

Because there is not enough light, painters are not able to share this space and continue to work in CFA.

Over the past four years, and even since this past year, Kopec has seen an increase in the number of students vying for space in the studio to construct their work. Additionally, several students are becoming more interested in less traditional forms of art, such as animation and instillation, which require different space and materials.

“They’re pushing the limits, which we would expect at Knox,” said Kopec.

Beyond the work students put into creating their projects for class, there is also a need for additional and different display space on campus. Currently, art shows and senior art exhibits are displayed in the CFA lobby around the Round Room, which is not always the most convenient area for all artists.

“You have to find work to fit into the space,” said Kopec.

Art Professor Mark Holmes often hosts shows at his studio, The Box, which leaves plenty of room for artists to explore. The disadvantage of showing art at The Box is that it is off-campus and can only be displayed at certain times instead of the entire day, as the shows put in CFA are.

“[The Box] is a nice space, but it’s not easily accessible,” said Kopec. “We need a gallery.”

With a gallery, the art department could show more work on campus during longer and more regular hours. They would be able to bring more artists’ work here, as well as display student work more often and hold student-initiated shows.

For now, however, Kopec is glad to have the space that she has for her work in the Auxilary Gym basement.

“We make do,” said Kopec.

Theater department

“Everyone is sort of aware that there will be conflict in space,” said senior and Theater Advisory Board president Meredith Noseworthy. “It would be really nice if we had access to more open space on campus.”

Every trimester, with the exception of Repertory Term, the theater department hosts several student produced plays and one main stage production. Often, rehearsal schedules for the different productions conflict and the later show is forced to rehearse in different spaces throughout the term. The department has been working with the music department in order to use Jay Rehearsal Hall and Campus Safety to open upstairs classrooms as rehearsal space when it is necessary.

“It’s been kind of insane with that,” said Noseworthy. “We’ve just had more shows going up.”

Noseworthy, who is directing the last production to go up this term, has used Jay Rehearsal Hall twice already to practice for her show. This can present a problem, because actors must understand how to move in their stage space in order to perform their show. With all this moving, actors run the risk of becoming disoriented with where they are in their theatrical space. The classroom space is much smaller than the stage space and can be dangerous to rehearse combat in.

The department could remedy this situation by further limiting the shows they allow students to produce each term. However, Noseworthy said the theater department would like to provide open opportunities to all students, majors and non-majors alike.

“It’s really great to have the involvement and interest we have on campus,” said Noseworthy. “[The space] is adequate for what we’re doing now, but not for the level of interest [in the future].”

Senior Sam Newport has been working on an independent study that could aid this situation as early as spring term. Newport is constructing a “pageant theater” which will be moveable and open up into a stage wherever performers decide to take it.

“Hopefully that will provide more space and some more opportunities to do theater on campus,” said Noseworthy. “It’s really exciting to see how the department has grown.”

Though the pageant wagon will create more space, that space also has its limitations. Shows can only be performed with adequate lighting and must depend on fair weather for the show to go on.

The use of space becomes a bigger issue than usual during spring term, when the dance department uses Harbach Auditorium for their main stage dance show. Because they need this space, as do other shows, there is less room for student-produced work. Noseworthy said there will be less petitions accepted in the spring for shows in studio theater, though she encourages aspiring directors to choose shows that could be produced on a bare stage, as theater is still possible without the other aspects of production.

Music department

“This is a big issue for the music department,” said senior music major John Eiseman. “The only thing [in the department] that hasn’t increased is the space available.”

Currently, Knox supports several musical opportunities, including the Knox Jazz Ensemble, jazz combos, the Knox-Sandburg Community Band, the Knox-Galesburg Symphony, the Knox College Choir and countless other instrumental and vocal music ensembles, in addition to offering private lessons. All students involved in these ensembles are able to take private lessons for free.

“People come to Knox to do music now,” said Eiseman. “The music department definitely has a goal of increasing its numbers.”

Last fall, there were 186 students receiving private lessons, which grew to 232 by spring term. At this time, there are more students taking private lessons than there were last fall. There are only 12 rooms for private lessons available in CFA.

“There’s not enough room to fit everybody,” said Eiseman. “We need an extension on the building any way we can.”

As the department has grown, several adjunct professors have been hired to accommodate lesson interests. They use the practice rooms for lessons during the day and do not have any office space. At night, ensembles and other groups practice for classes, leaving little space for those studying privately to improve their skills or use the practice rooms. There is currently a petition for students to sign every time they arrive at the practice area and find that all the rooms are taken.

“There’s someone who signs up every day,” said Eiseman. “If you’re going to be studying music, you need to practice.”

There is also an issue with instrument storage. The instrument lockers are all filled and mainly for smaller instruments, so the larger ones are kept in music professor Nikki Malley’s office when they are not in use. The offices also double as areas for private lessons and offices for adjunct professors, who come from all over the country to teach at Knox. In 1985, the music department hired 20 adjunct professors. Currently, there are 33 employed throughout the year.

The focus of those studying music has also changed over the past few years.

“There’s a lot more interest in composition and orchestration,” said Eiseman. The department has one midi lab that can be used for composition. Ideally there would be several computers that could be used by students studying music.

“At a liberal arts college you are encouraged to do lots of things,” said Eiseman. “Music is something you can dabble in.”

Laura Miller


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