Indiana State University
Indiana State University officials, students and dignitaries braved the unseasonably frosty weather Tuesday to rededicate the renovated Fine Arts and Commerce Building.
The 1939-constructed facility is “lighter and brighter” after $15 million worth of improvements, said College of Arts and Sciences Dean Chris Olsen, but it’s more importantly a vastly improved teaching space.
“The design team included faculty from the very first meetings when we were talking about the spaces,” Olsen said. “The new teaching spaces reflect that fact. They now allow for the best practices in teaching these areas, and it means the learning experiences are so much better in many, many ways — too many ways to list, in fact.”
ISU President Deborah Curtis said everyone involved in the project should know they created an environment that will forever support the mission of the university.
“When we have the opportunity to celebrate an event like this, it’s good to refocus our attention on why buildings like this matter. It matters because this newly learning and teaching space is what we need to provide to our amazing students and faculty,” Curtis said.
State Sen. Jon Ford (R-Terre Haute) said he was proud to have played a role securing the funding. “The Indiana General Assembly believes in Indiana State University, and while we celebrate the legislature’s confidence, I know no one here takes for granted that confidence,” Ford said.
Construction projects like this one help fuel the economy by providing work for skilled laborers, Ford said. “ISU trustees and administrators are good stewards of the tax dollars,” Ford said. “We know ISU’s faculty and staff are working hard in helping our kids be successful in these critical years of college life. We believe ISU graduates are going to be successful … and live and work in Indiana.”
Renovations began in May 2018 and wrapped up this fall. Upgrades include new mechanical and electrical systems to improve temperature control, air quality and access to technology. A new glass atrium and entry allows natural light to flood into the building. A new elevator was installed, and the original, extraordinary building finishes were restored. Artwork by alumni Marquise Gibbs and Zachary Moore and faculty Nancy Nichols-Pethick is featured in the facility.
The new Fine Arts building is beautiful, Olsen acknowledged, but it also maintains its historic design that was dedicated in March 1940 by First Lady Eleanor Roosevelt. Olsen recalled her words in his remarks.
“In this building, we’re fortunate to have some of the best of our faculty inspiring and working with students … to create new knowledge and new pieces of art and music to feed the soul,” Olsen said.
The Fine Arts Building serves thousands of students in the university’s most popular and well-respected programs, such as music business, music education, art appreciation, printmaking, graphic design and more. Alumni are renowned around the country, Olsen said.
Indiana State students Paige Kimbrew and Natalee Link, both seniors in the intermedia program, recalled how they were fortunate to see the building as its original, transitional and final stages.
“The first building had its charm and character. It was our home away from home and made all the students feel like one big family,” Kimbrew said.
Link said she was honored to see the plans and to provide feedback. “I am excited about the new opportunities to come for the Fine Arts Building and for all of us,” she said.
The women promoted the current student art exhibits — including the digital art exhibit in the Turman Gallery, the WPA works display in the art department conference room and the Large Abstract Color exhibition on display in the University Art Gallery in the Landini Center — and the soft skills they gain through planning them.
The facility is also home to the Community School of the Arts, which grew exponentially since its creation a few years ago “in spite of its location” on the upper floors, Olsen said. It’s now front-and-center on the ground level.
“It’s a community service, but it’s also a teaching opportunity for many of our university students and one of the many ways that our division of University Engagement helps make the wider Wabash Valley a more delightful place to live,” Olsen said.
The event, which was moved inside because of a cold front that swept through the area Monday, featured the talent nurtured in the building — the School of Music and art department. Sycamore Singers performed a cappella, and ISU Inferno Saxophone Quartet played as guests toured the art exhibits and installations and enjoyed refreshments.
Speakers thanked the following: Gov. Eric Holcomb, Indiana Commissioner for Higher Education Teresa Lubbers, state Rep. Holli Sullivan (R-Evansville), retired state Rep. Clyde Kersey (D-Terre Haute), state Rep. Bob Heaton (R-Terre Haute), state Rep. Alan Morrison (R-Brazil), Sen. Luke Kinley (R- Noblesville), Tim Brown (R-Crawfordsville), Terre Haute Mayor Duke Bennett and Greg Miller of ArcDESIGN. Numerous ISU employees were also thanked.
“ISU is blessed with remarkable partners to transform these buildings into a 21st century educational space,” Curtis said.