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 Tuesday, October 9, 2007 IssueFaculty/Staff E-Newsletter


Goodbye Sibell Wolle, hello Visual Arts Complex
By Linda Besen, Publications and Creative Services

The next two years will see a flurry of deconstruction and construction as the $63.5 million Visual Arts Complex (VAC) replaces the Sibell Wolle Fine Arts building and makes possible a gateway to the campus that emphasizes the importance of the arts to CU-Boulder. The complex is scheduled to open in fall 2009.

Visitors parking at Euclid AutoPark will emerge north onto the Fine Arts Green and see before them the two wings of the VAC—a studio wing to the east and a west wing housing the CU Art Museum (CUAM)—with a 30-foot-wide pedestrian mall between them. The wings will be connected via a walkway on the third floor, and the west wing will be connected to the ATLAS building at the first basement level.

"The new complex is a total transformation of both the Department of Art and Art History and the CU Art Museum," said Graham Oddie, associate dean for arts and humanities in the College of Arts and Sciences, who oversees both programs. He explained that the new facilities will be safer, cleaner, technologically far more advanced, and, at 170,000 gross square feet, much roomier.

Lisa Tamiris Becker, director of CUAM, said the new complex will create a dynamic new home for the museum's permanent collection. Occupying the first two floors of the west wing, CUAM will feature 8,500 square feet of gallery space, including space for two permanent collections, a changing exhibition gallery, a gallery for thesis exhibitions and a video gallery. There will be areas for professional receiving, art preparation and fabrication, and a museum gift shop. "Best of all," said Becker, "climate control will be standard, which means that CU can qualify to receive and show visiting exhibitions."

For now, the entire art collection is in storage or on loan. During the building of the new complex, thesis shows will be held at the UMC Gallery and the Dairy Center for the Arts. "The fun part of this interim period," said Becker, "is that we have the opportunity to show our collection to new audiences." Becker is curating a video collection exhibit at the Boulder Museum of Contemporary Art in fall 2008 and possibly a spring 2008 show at the University of Colorado Museum of Natural History.

For art and art history students, the studio wing will offer studio suites and classrooms with natural light and access to a visual resources center featuring a digital image database containing some 350,000 slides. The studio wing will house ceramics and outdoor kilns on the first floor, sculpture on the second floor, printmaking on the third floor and painting on both the third and fourth floors.

The building is designed to satisfy very high levels of environmental sustainability, as defined by LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) criteria. The VAC will use environmentally sustainable building strategies for water savings, energy efficiency, materials selection and indoor environmental quality.

About half of the funding for the Visual Arts Complex comes from the self-imposed student building fee. "This is the fourth major building project partly funded by the fee," said Oddie, "but it is the first such building project within the College of Arts and Sciences—the academic home of about 75 percent of the students on the Boulder campus." Students have already funded substantial building projects for both the law and business schools, as well as the ATLAS building. The balance of VAC funding f will come from state, university and private funds.

A farewell exhibition was held in the now-empty Sibell Wolle building on Oct. 5-6. Demolition of the 90-year-old building begins in December.

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