NSU Art Department 2014:
Northern State University’s art department instructors and students soon will pursue their creative endeavors in spaces custom-designed as part of an estimated $1.4 million facilities improvement project.
The project - in which parts of Dacotah Hall will be reconfigured into classrooms for graphic design and photography and other spaces renovated and upgraded - is key to maintaining accreditation from the National Association of Schools of Art and Design
(NASAD), said Peter Kilian, art professor and chair of NSU’s art and theater departments. NSU was awarded full NASAD membership in October 2013, he said, and is the only NASAD-approved college or university in South Dakota with bachelor’s degree programs in art and design
The South Dakota Board of Regents approved a total of $552,057 for the project, said Veronica Paulson, NSU vice president of finance and administration. Paulson said an additional $40,000 to $50,000 worth of work was added because of unforeseen needs revealed during construction.
Also part of the total is a $200,000 anonymous gift received in January 2013 and earmarked for photography and digital design equipment upgrades.
NSU later will spend an additional $650,000 to remodel first-floor art classrooms in Spafford Hall, Paulson said. Those classrooms house printmaking, sculpture and ceramics.
Straddling the Years and Two Buildings
When NASAD officials recently scrutinized every aspect of NSU’s art offerings, every area but facilities met accreditation standards, Kilian said. Spafford Hall was built in the early 1900s; Dacotah Hall, in the late 1950s.
Never having been designed for art, Spafford and Dacotah present health and safety issues related to air quality and exchange, climate control, heating and cooling, and safe storage, Kilian said. Kilian, who has worked at NSU for 19 years, said the art department hasn’t had a major upgrade in decades. “We’re well-prepared to have a very robust facility.”
Construction began in July 2013 and has an estimated completion date of December 2015, according to documents Kilian prepared for NASAD. CO-OP Architecture
of Aberdeen was hired for the project.
First: Digital Graphic Design, Photography
The current graphic design room, Spafford 109, is in a former locker room in which computers generate heat that’s stifling in early fall and late spring, Kilian said. Other challenges include poor light control and wide pillars that block students’ view of the front of the room. Kilian said the new graphics room will have none of those inconveniences. It will offer storage for servers and equipment and the pleasant, comfortable environment students expect, he said, adding that advanced students will enjoy a separate personal workspace.
Photography will be centralized in Dacotah Hall with areas dedicated to photo and video shoots and processing; ventilation and air exchange and water system upgrades to mitigate the entry of photo chemicals into the water supply; and addition of a secure chemical and supply room.
A 450-square-foot light studio for photo and video shoots will offer track lighting, a mechanized backdrop wall and green screen, Kilian said.
“This is huge – for a college this size to provide a workspace like this is pretty cool.”
A student critique space will offer space for display and discussion where students can view, enjoy, assess and discuss each other’s work, making the formerly fragmented space “feel more like an art department,” Kilian said.
Initial improvements should be complete in April, said CO-OP project manager Bob Strom.
Later: Printmaking, Sculpture, Ceramics
Kilian said the next step will address improvements to the ceramics and sculpture studio classrooms, located in a former locker room and the old NSU swimming pool. Both areas lack storage and present a variety of challenges, from air quality control to safe storage of hazardous materials, he said.
A centralized printmaking area will offer needed storage space and allow safer storage and handling for the acids, solvents and other hazardous materials printmaking requires, he said.
Architectural plans and a construction schedule for these improvements are expected to be ready in July.
‘Modern and Inviting’
“Our goal was to make [Dacotah Hall] a little more modern and inviting, to attract students to the programs,” said Strom.
Strom highlighted other renovation details, including a revolving darkroom door; and, embedded in a wall of the art education room, a length of Chemetal
, a magnetized whiteboard that can double as a projection surface.
“With the computer labs, we’re running all power through the floor to create a clean, cordless environment; a sleek, modern look.”
The display lobby and critique space will be a distinguishing focal point, Strom said. “The professors wanted an area that was relaxing, where they could have students show their work and hang out in between classes.”
Strom said workers spent considerable time upgrading mechanical and electrical fittings to comply with modern building codes, and routing new ductwork for fresh air flow.