Last week, classes were held for the first time in the newly completed art building, which was the result of sixteen months of designing, demolition, and construction. In late spring of 2014, art students were dismayed to learn that the Art Barn, which had originally been a stable for the Lookout Mountain Hotel, was closing. That disconcerting piece of news launched the process that has culminated in the opening of the new building. Over the last year and a quarter, the old, wood-sided barn has disappeared, giving way to bare dirt, ponderous machines, and finally, a brand new building.
The process of designing the new building was collaborative. Professor Jeffrey Morton, chair of the art department, emphasized the role of the art department in working with college administrators and campus architect, David Northcutt, to plan the new building. He said that throughout the process, the administration and architects “looked to the art department for input” and that the department’s contributions substantially “helped shape the building spaces and its look.”
The aesthetic of the building was important to the design process. Two priorities for the design team, according to Morton, were to make the building welcoming and to reflect the feel of the previous Art Barn. The new building features a variety of textures and contrasts, including dark wood siding reminiscent of the Art Barn’s wooden sides, white walls, concrete wall applications, stone, and Corten steel, a unique metal which develops a rust-like patina as it is exposed to weather. The interior walls feature many of the old windows from the original building, while large expanses of windows in the exterior walls give the space an open, airy feel and fill the studio areas with light.
The new building is roughly twice the square footage of the Art Barn, accommodating the art department’s growth. The main entrance leads to a common area where student work will be exhibited. The building holds two large studio areas, one for two-dimensional work and one for three-dimensional work. New features of the studio areas include an attached kiln for firing ceramics and lighting configured for figure drawing classes. There are also faculty offices, work spaces for senior art students making their SIPs, a small patio area, and a faculty studio space.
While the building facilitates the art department’s work and studies, Professor Morton noted that it is the college’s building and expressed a “hope that it will be used in the social life of our campus.” In October, the Board of Trustees will vote on the new building’s name, and a dedication ceremony will take place in March.
Ultimately, the transformation of the site from equestrian stable to a new facility speaks to more than the college’s need to provide a space for art classes. The site’s reshaping speaks to the importance of place and our ability to shape the spaces around us. As Professor Morton said about the new building, “we hope that our community can affirm the place-making role that God has called us to as faculty, students, and staff.”