LEXINGTON, Ky. (March 17, 2014) — Interior demolition is complete and renovations are underway at University Lofts, the future home of the University of Kentucky School of Art and Visual Studies in the UK College of Fine Arts.
A sprawling, brick building located on Bolivar Street immediately adjacent to the UK campus, University Lofts (or the Bolivar Building, as the school refers to it), is being transformed from a loft-style apartment building into art studios, classrooms and gallery space for the university's art school.
Several years ago, UK began exploring a number of options to rehabilitate Reynolds Building No. 1, an academic building that presently houses art studios, classrooms and a gallery. Like University Lofts, Reynolds Building No. 1 is a former tobacco warehouse and processing facility. But unlike the Lofts, the 77-year-old Reynolds Building has never had a major renovation, making the space unsuitable for student and faculty use. Beyond the day-to-day structural, operational and safety impediments, Reynolds Building No. 1 has hindered the UK School of Art and Visual Studies' education process and recruitment efforts.
The UK Board of Trustees initially approved the purchase of the University Lofts building in 2011 at an acquisition cost of $6.7 million and eventually approved a $15 million renovation.
"It was critical that we get our art students and faculty out of the old Reynolds Building and into a safe, modern facility. After years of searching for a solution, and years of setbacks, this was the best available option in terms of location, building and price," said Bob Wiseman, UK vice president for facilities management.
As of February 2014, all the interior demolition on the University Lofts building was completed and steel framing for the interior walls was going up. Renovations to the Lofts allow for a wide-open floor plan with institutional HVAC systems and the necessary air exhaust systems for certain fine arts safety needs, new lighting, modern accessible restrooms and other amenities that will optimize the space for UK's art students. To see photos and information on the renovations, visit the School of Art And Visual Studies Facebook page at www.facebook.com/uksavs.
The change in facility will benefit the instructional needs of faculty and students by allowing UK School of Art and Visual Studies the opportunity to plan and arrange programs in a more efficient and effective manner as well as allow most of the school's faculty to work under one roof.
State-of-the-art class space for art studio and art education classes will be created, as well as studio space for faculty and graduate students. The building will also allow for the expansion of educational program opportunities in advanced technology via six digital media labs and a fabrication lab (FabLab), increased student services through a centralized technology checkout desk where students can borrow all manner of conventional and new media tools, an expanded gallery, and support for collaborative communities of students and faculty in specially planned studio clusters.
"In programming this building, we have witnessed a new energy and excitement for the visual arts at the University of Kentucky, and since the School of Art and Visual Studies is central to the arts and creativity component of our UK Core curriculum, this building will serve thousands of students each semester," said Michael Tick, dean of the College of Fine Arts.
The renovations will not only better the learning environment for UK's art community, it will also help UK School of Art and Visual Studies maintain its accreditation from the National Association of Schools of Art and Design. The renovated building will also enhance UK's role as home of the Commonwealth's largest and most diverse art studio and art education programs, which offer the state's only Master of Fine Arts (MFA) in art studio and a Master of Arts (MA) in art education.
"The Bolivar Building renovation represents a transformative moment for us. We are in many ways no longer the 'art department' we were just five years ago," said Rob Jensen, director of the art school. "Today the new School of Art and Visual Studies has a faculty one-third larger than before, a faculty that is bringing a lot of younger and more diverse voices and technologies to the creative conversations found in our studio and art education programs. It is a great moment for those of us that have worked at UK for many years, and it will be a great moment for our current and future students the day they step through the Bolivar building’s doors for the first time."
If renovations continue to go as planned, UK students could be creating paintings, drawings, digital media, fiber works, prints, ceramics and sculpture in the facility as early as the summer semester of 2015.
UK School of Art and Visual Studies is an accredited member of the National Association of Schools of Art and Design and offers undergraduate and graduate degrees in the fields of art studio, art history and visual studies and art education.
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