By: Jennifer Ward
The photography department's dark room (Photo by Jenn Ward)
Pack up your equipment, because as of winter break, the photography department is undergoing a major change. Due to old equipment, and issues with air circulation, renovations are due for the Visual Arts [VA] building.
The entirety of the Visual Arts building is in for a rough few years as the entire building will be under construction as improvements and upgrades are put in. This also means that students will be displaced from their department and placed elsewhere as their floor is under renovation. With the photography department being the start of the VA building renovations, many students will lose their space and be placed in other spots scattered around campus.
“It’s a challenging project on the hand of its above ceiling, behind the scenes. So it’s not as splashy or sexy where students can come back and see ‘Oh everything’s new!’ They’ll be certain elements that are new, but we’re not doing a full interior renovation of the basement level," said the associate director of capital facilities planning, Sean Connolly
News of the renovations, that has led to the closing of the photography department’s space for a semester has led to shock from students. Junior photography major Alyssa Dabrowski said, “I thought they were rumors at first, but then it turned into everything closing.”
Many students feel they have been kept in the dark about these renovations, and remain confused when it comes to what exactly is happening to their department. “I’m in the dark, people are talking about all the different places and where we’re going to be moved,” said Cait Simons, sophomore photography major. “Where is it actually going to be? We don’t know anything.”
“It’s a dungeon down there,” said Dabrowski, referring to the basement of the VA.
Joshua Lutz, chair of the photography program and associate professor in art and design said, “They’re sort of assessing a slew of other things. I don’t believe any of it is related to mold.”
The HVAC (heating, ventilation, and air conditioning) project is to help improve the equipment in the building and overhaul all of the mechanical systems to
Stains on the photography department's walls
(Photo by Jenn Ward)
improve on it. This will be happening to each floor of the Visual Arts building to help upgrade the older systems put in place, beginning with the basement level, where the photography department is, and slowly working their way up each floor.
“We are going to look for opportunities where we can update some areas because I don’t like the fact that students are going to be coming back like ‘You kicked us out a whole semester and didn’t do anything,’” Connolly said.
Students are concerned about what this will mean for the future of their program, especially with this being the last semester for many senior photography majors. “They’re basically moving everyone which sucks. I feel really bad for the seniors too because it's not going to be where you were the last four years,” said Dabrowski.
As a capital project, facilities work closely with the state to oversee construction. “At the end of the day it’s a big and disruptive project and we want to do it in the least disruptive way not to impact students or disrupt the programs if we can help it,” said Connolly. “Just trying to keep everyone happy.”
“It’s also such an expensive project and we get limited funding from the state, so we can’t just do the whole project at once. That’s why we have to do the VA like this in multiple phases,” continued Connolly.
Plans are being set into motion on where students will be placed during renovations, considering classrooms will be under construction. Students will be placed in various classrooms on campus, including a dark room in the former bookstore. “It’s this massive Rubix cube of trying to figure out who we move where and how that works,” said Connolly.
Renovations are projected to begin during winter closing and students are urged to remain as patient as possible during the renovations process. Updates will be posted to the advisory page on the Purchase College website.
“I think in some of these incidences, facilities are going to be better, and also less spread out and be able to use the architecture of this to form a community,” said Lutz.