As campus activities have been suspended and buildings emptied, faculty in the Griffith Fine Arts building get ready for renovations that will relocate their classes and offices.
Associate Dean of the College of Fine Arts Dr. Scott Shattuck said the moving-out process should be done by May, allowing for construction to start early in the summer. The renovations will include space for the dance and filmmaking programs, art galleries, performance facilities and will nearly double the existing space of Griffith Fine Arts.
“SFA has recognized the need for new and improved arts facilities for more than 30 years," Shattuck said. "When the late president, Dr. Baker Pattillo, worked with the Board of Regents to launch the largest group of construction projects in the university’s history, they ensured that the arts were among their priorities. We have been led by our dean, Dr. A. C. “Buddy” Himes, who has been very open to the input of other leaders such as filmmaking program head professor William Arscott, dance program head professor Heather Samuelson, and gallery director John Handley. School directors, other program heads, faculty and staff from throughout the College of Fine Arts have also met extensively with the team of top architects, designers and consultants assembled from around the country by SFA.”
Classes and faculty offices that were originally in the fine arts building are being relocated across campus but will mainly be put in the Miller science and McKibben education buildings.
Cleo House, Jr., associate professor in the School of Theatre, said there will still be shows, though not in Turner Auditorium.
“Shows will be mostly over in the Kennedy Auditorium, and we’re also going to be doing some performances within the community, perhaps at different spaces that are not traditional theatre spaces,” House said.
Despite their new locations, House said the curriculum of the classes has not been changed.
“If anything, everything is going be the same, just the location is different,” House said. “I mean we are trying to use this as an opportunity to experiment with how we do shows. So, we’re adding a couple of more experimental slots to the season; but as far as curriculum goes, there’s no change.”
House said construction will take anywhere from a year and a half to two years to be completed.
“I think it’s more so being concerned about the students and hoping that they still feel connected to each other and making sure we’re doing things to make them still feel like they still have a theater home over the next year and a half,” House said.
CaitLyne Martin, a sophomore technical theatre and design major from Chandler, said the changes are a good way to both show off strengths and build on weaknesses.
“I really can’t think of very many negatives honestly," Martin said. "Sure, it’s unfortunate that we won’t have a dedicated space for a while; but at the end of the day, I still get to do what I love doing. Theatre. SFASU is putting money up so that we can improve, and that’s something I wish more schools would do.We will have to learn more skills and overcome different obstacles but at its base, the school is still doing theatre.”
Kaitlyn McDearmont, a senior theatre education major from Sulphur Springs, said classes should be the same but is interested to see how auditions will go, as well as how the closeness of theater students will be affected.
“The theatre building is a safe space for many students to go and hang out," McDearmont said. "We have a student lounge that is always full with people. I tend to go down there and work on homework. I love getting to see and talk to everyone. I am really going to miss the togetherness that the building brings. I think once we’re “at sea” we are going to have to work extra hard to make sure the theatre students feel like they have a place they can call home, especially the incoming freshman.”
Stories of Chester, the ghost in Griffith, will move into the new building, McDearmont and Martin think, because the construction is building on the old building. But with the added programs to the building comes the hope of more stories.
“I definitely have a story or two about him, and I don’t think Chester will be going anywhere,” McDearmont said. “I hope a new ghost comes with the new building. I know a few more departments will be in with us once we move in completely. Maybe we will get a new dancing ghost.”