In a Nov. 12 issue of the Miami Hurricane, the hazardous conditions of the “art shacks,” a condemned part of the Art Department located near the Memorial and Physics buildings, were brought to the attention of UM administration.
The article was the latest of several investigative articles on the problem that date back as far as 1981.
Shortly after the front-page article was distributed, President Donna E. Shalala toured the art buildings and agreed that the condition is bad, but did not make any promise for repairs or for new buildings.
“We know we need to seriously improve the space,” Shalala said.
Some students and faculty are hoping that Shalala’s forthcoming “Capital Campaign” budget will bring in enough money to repair some of the old buildings.
“We will incorporate [the art department]into the campaign,” Shalala said.
Recently a section of one of the shacks was marked off with red tape to warn students not to walk through the area.
The second floor of the main art building is completely condemned, and the safety of all the shacks is questionable. This dangerous and un-aesthetic condition has caused art classes to be relocated to all corners of the campus.
“It’s still just terrible,” said Michael Carlebach, chair of the art and art history department. “I think we’re the only department in the University that is actually located off campus. I mean, the baseball team is closer to campus than we are.”
Members of the art faculty have lobbied for repairs and new buildings for decades and have been put off by what they refer to as empty promises made by various UM administrators.
For example, several years ago, the printmaking department was asked to move its classes to the Rainbow Building, located across from the baseball field.
The department agreed, under the impression that the painting department, with whom the printmaking department works closely, would move there also after the second floor was renovated.
“We agreed to move to the Rainbow Building when the bottom floor was renovated under the condition that the painting department would get to move the following year when the second floor would be renovated,” said printmaking professor Lisa Drost.
According to sources, the second floor was never renovated because UM decided it was too costly.
“Enrollment numbers are up,” Drost said. “And if the condition of the buildings is not hurting the University’s enrollment, then they will be less likely to fix the problem.”
According to representatives for the art department, students are still enrolling in the art program at UM for the quality of the professors and because of the beauty of the campus itself.
Economically speaking, since UM is not losing money from the condition of the art department, it is cheaper for UM to continue ignoring the hazards of the art buildings than to be concerned for the students who are both inconvenienced and endangered by the buildings.
Many believe that an accident will eventually occur in one of the dangerous buildings, for which UM will be held responsible, or the condition will become such an inconvenience that students will stop enrolling in art classes.
Graphic design major Sarah Schermerhorn transferred to UM this semester and says she is already disillusioned by the situation.
“It’s really unhealthy for an artist to be in such an unappealing place,” she said. “You walk to class and the campus is so beautiful; then you get to class and it’s gross. Some buildings are not nice places to spend three hours.”
The Hurricane will continue to investigate and follow the situation throughout the course of the semester.
Jacklyn Lisenby can be contacted at jlisenby@ umsis.miami.edu.