Although art and art history majors may have similar requirements and pay the same amount of tuition as other students at UM, they suffer more than anyone else on campus when it comes to the quality of their learning facilities.
Among the primary concerns is the fact that the main art building is partially condemned, and art classes are spread out all over campus, art students said.
However, this isn’t a new problem.
Apparently, the art building has been in bad condition since before many current UM art students were born.
A Miami Hurricane article about the condition of the art facilities dated Sept. 22, 1981 quoted Fran Rowin, an art history teacher, as saying:
“What upsets people most are the moldy ceiling panels which are falling off and hanging over students’ heads. Also, parts of the second floor balcony. . . have beams that are warping and hanging a little.”
Similar articles also appeared in 1994 and 2000.
The second floor Rowin spoke of is now completely condemned due to dry rout, a type of fungus, and damage on important support posts.
The article also stated that students would like to see immediate improvements or eventual construction of a new building.
Twenty-one years later, art students have the same wish.
Despite countless promises and plans of new construction, no visible progress has been made toward obtaining new facilities for art students, according to those within the department.
“There are serious problems,” said Jared Bachrach, a student in ARH 102. “The sinks back up whenever we try to wash brushes or anything. There’s also a musty, stale smell that can’t be good for you.”
“At least the AC works,” Bachrach said.
The art complex, known as “the shacks,” was constructed during World War II. Most classes that were once held there had to be relocated.
Throughout the years, art classes have been scattered across campus, from buildings in the corner of campus near the physics building all the way to the Rainbow Building across from the baseball stadium.
According to those enrolled in art classes, the distance is a problem for many art students.
“I was late to class every day because it was so far,” said Shelly Steele, enrolled in a 3-D art class in the Ceramics and Sculpture Studio, located past Stanford Residential Hall. “Plus, the building itself is run down and awful.”
The Rainbow Building, which used to house UNICCO offices, has parking spaces available for students who wish to drive to class.
When asked about the plans for new buildings, an art department administrator said:
“That’s really in the hands of the Arts and Sciences department. Maybe you should call them.”
According to administration, every department passes the blame to another, and many wonder how long it will take before someone in some department somewhere takes responsibility for the failing facilities.
“I’ve heard things for a while,” said Steven Waller, a graphic design major. “They’re going to tear down the condemned building and all that. I haven’t really seen anything though. At least they put air conditioning in the graphic design building.”
“I know the old building is propped up on crutches,” said Michael Carlebach, new interim chair of the art and art history department. “We’re lobbying very hard for a new, large art building where every staff member will have their own new studio.”
Carlebach said staff would like to have a building somewhere between the Lowe Art Museum and the School of Architecture.
“We’d create an art section of the campus,” he explained.
Part of the problem, he added, is that the condemned building is a historical landmark because it was designed by Marion Manly, Florida’s first female architect.
As such, it can’t be completely torn down.
According to Carlebach, the department may keep the office part of the building and scrap the rest.
President Shalala has been said to support the art department strongly and has promised several times to help with the facility problem, including working with people on meeting the tough Coral Gables building codes.
According to those within the art and art history department, such promises are encouraging, but the art faculty has heard it all before.
Until ground is broken and improvement plans are materialized, teachers are striving to do the best they can from other remote corners of the campus where art classes are held.
Fortunately, most students are willing to endure the poor conditions in order to receive good instruction.
“Kids like art,” Carlebach said. “And it’s a good department with good teachers, so our [enrollment] numbers are the same as last year.”
Students and faculty expressed hope that the Capital Campaign, a fund-raising project slated to begin next year, will provide some of the funds needed to bring UM’s art facilities up to par.
Jaclyn Lisenby can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.