Art Barn Update

Last semester, David Northcutt, chief planning and facilities officer, sent out an email declaring that after consulting with a structural engineer, the senior administration had decided it would be wiser to close the Art Barn for the year and study the possibilities of a new art facility.

Maintaining the Art Barn would require a full structural analysis, which would involve “the removal of major sections of the building’s exterior walls and floors,” the email explained. The cost of this procedure and probable restoration of the building was determined to be higher than the actual value of the building.

Until a new facility can be built, the Art Department will utilize most of Jackson Hall for faculty office and studio, while sculpture and ceramic classes are taught in the basement of Carter Hall.

The Art Barn started out as a horse stable when the Lookout Mountain Hotel was first bought by the college in 1964. The stable was used as a repair shop for cars until Ed Kellogg decided to turn the “garage” into an Art Workshop, endearingly called the Art Barn by the Covenant community. Since then, the barn has been a place where “students aren’t afraid to make a mess,” Professor Jeff Morton said.

In honor of the Art Barn, a wake was held on May 7 to “help us say goodbye to this well-loved building and begin envisioning what might come next,” Assistant Professor of Art, Elissa Yukiko Weichbrodt, explained.

In addition to students, several Covenant alumni, as well as the establisher of the Art Barn, Ed Kellogg, attended the wake, where they made rubbings of the barn’s iconic wood and reflected on what the Art Barn had meant to them. The reflections were guided by “wake questions,” with the intent that the answers to those questions would be used to help create a new art facility that could function in a similar way that the Art Barn had.

Professor Morton mentioned two values that will shape the construction of the new facility. First, the new facility will have the same feel and function as the Art Barn: its “differentness” as compared to the rest of the campus, its abundance of windows to allow plenty of light to come in, and its inviting atmosphere. To create a physical tie to the past, some of the old wood and windows from the original barn will also be a part of the new building, though not as part of the functional structure.

As for the second value, Professor Morton said concisely, “we want this thing to be designed well. … It’s less about having lots of square footage, and more about how the square footage is used.”

The personal response for the Art Barn’s impending destruction and the new developments involving the art department varies. Hannah Taylor, a senior art major, said that she had mixed feelings: excitement for new things to happen, but also sadness that it has taken such a long time for the art facility to finally get its well-deserved improvements.

Dr. Weichbrodt, who spent a significant amount of time on the barn during her time as a Covenant student, also said that while there “is a good deal of mourning that goes with having [the Art Barn] about to be demolished,” the art department has been very happy with how open the facilities committee and administrations have been with the concerns of the department. “We’re really, really excited about what the new facility is going to be and look like,” she said.

Professor Morton declared that while he loved the barn, he was relieved to finally move his things out. Likening it to “the boiling frog who’s oblivious to the increasing heat,” he agreed that the barn was no longer in adequate shape for the department’s use.

Currently, the new facility is projected to be ready by Fall 2015.

“It’s time to leave,” said Professor Morton, “and I have no regrets.”