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By Bill Landauer

You don’t need to look hard to find works of art at Lafayette. From Tiffany Studio stained-glass windows to gilt-framed oil paintings to historical sculptures—nearly every building has a wall or shelf adorned with something fabulous.

Turns out you’re seeing only the tip of the iceberg.

Several thousand paintings; works on paper including drawings, historic and contemporary prints, and vintage and contemporary photographs; sculpture; Native American pottery; and other artistic and historic artifacts are held in Kirby and Pardee hall storage areas. Access to these areas has been restricted to a few staff members, and they lack appropriate display and study space for students and faculty to view artwork.

The future home of the Art Study Center

Construction has begun in the Williams Center for the Arts to convert the former black box theater into the Art Study Center.

By fall, that will change. The College is converting the old black box theater at the Williams Center for the Arts into a new Art Study Center. The space became available when the College opened the new black box, Weiss Theater, in William C. Buck Hall on South Third Street last year. This will bring the art collection adjacent to art history classes, the art gallery, and the main stage, broadening the audience for the collection.

Demolition and construction on the Art Study Center began shortly after fall semester finals. The facility is slated for completion in late spring, in time for Michiko Okaya, director of art galleries and collections curator, along with art collections manager/registrar David Burnhauser to use the summer to move works from their various hidey holes around campus into their much more functional home at the Williams Center.

Construction of the Art Study Center was made possible with funds provided by the late Morris R. Williams and F. M. Kirby Foundation Inc.

“The Art Study Center is both an important preservation and risk-reduction project and an access project,” Okaya says. “The new space will, of course, be climate-controlled and secure and, importantly, it will allow faculty and students from all disciplines access to the College’s art collection for the first time.”

The new center will include an art study room. Paintings previously hidden—such as the College’s collection of American history paintings, which have rarely been on display—can be seen on painting racks through a glass wall that separates the study room from the storage area.

Faculty and students from across disciplines and researchers will be able to access photographs from a recent important gift, for example, images of Jewish refugees living in Shanghai photographed by Arthur Rothstein (1915-1985) in 1946, and original pen-and-ink drawings by caricaturist and editorial cartoonist Thomas Nast (1840-1902). Efforts are underway to have the collection searchable via an online collections database. The study room will have display space to be used, for example, for small permanent collection exhibitions coordinated with faculty requests or student-curated research projects.

“The difference between viewing a PowerPoint image and the actual object cannot be overstated,” Okaya says.

Center hours will coincide with the Williams Center Art gallery, located across the lobby. It also may remain open for perusal during Williams Center performances.

The study center will include a workroom for preparing incoming exhibitions and new acquisitions (cataloging, matting, framing).

The space will be shared with a photography studio for Skillman Library’s Digital Scholarship Services.

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