Creating New Spaces for the Art Department

Genevieve Boutrous '23, Staff Writer

After much thought and consideration, the industrial arts building at South is going to be completely empty. In the fall of 2020, the math department had left the IA building and moved to the main building, which is ultimately the plan for the art department as soon as the fall of 2022.

The IA building is almost 77 years old and is connected to the nearly 100-year-old main building by a student-decorated “art bridge”. Some are left wondering if it’s necessary to demolish the site.

“I really don’t see a need to move the art department from the IA building to the main building,” ceramics student Brooke Westfall ’22 said. “There has been so much time and effort that has gone into the making of the building, and I think it’s special that I get to take an art class in a really historic building.”

Preparing for the transition of the art department going from the IA building to the main building has caused some anxious feelings to arise, according to art educator Thomas Szmrecsanyi. He estimates that it will be difficult to navigate due to the uncertainty of what art class is going to look like in the future.

“I’m preparing from a mental standpoint,” Szmrecsanyi said. “I just hope that the plans made for the art department go as planned, and I hope that we get an equivalent or even better facility than what we are working with now.”

As far as future plans go, there were as many as seven ideas for the IA building prior to the main building decision, according to district superintendent Dr. Michael JoCren Dean from the April 25 Board of Education meeting.

“The IA building is not handicap accessible, the bathrooms are on opposite floors, the bridge needs to be repaired and the building itself is not in great condition,” Dean said. “We have spent six months with the principal of South walking through options and found that it was one million dollars less expensive to move the art department to the main building.”

After deciding on the main building as the new location for art classes, the question arises of where exactly these classrooms will be placed. According to Principal Moussa Hamka, one option regarding the placement of the art department included completely renovating the IA building, projected to cost around seven million dollars, which is about four million over the budget.

“We’re going to use the girl’s shower locker room, the practice gym, as well as the lecture room to convert into art spaces,” Hamka said. “We’ll have a space in the gym for our ceramics and drawing and painting classes and plan on creating a new photo lab.”

According to Hamka, plans to start these renovations will be happening as soon as Fall of 2022 and have estimated a budget around 3 million dollars. As the plans regarding the relocation get put into place, the future of the IA building is still up in the air. There are both benefits and consequences to keeping the building as a part of South’s campus, but the final decision for the outcome of the building won’t be decided for years ahead.

“To keep the IA building open, we would need to get a new heating system as well as fix the water issues within the building which won’t actually serve to improve the classrooms,” Hamka said. “The money that we could have spent on fixing these issues is going towards a completely new art department in the main building.”