By DIANE GASPER-O’BRIEN
FHSU University Relations and Marketing
Karrie Simpson Voth has been dreaming for 15 years of watching students create and learn in a new, state-of-the-art space.
The reality is unfolding right before her very eyes is sometimes hard to grasp.
“I’m hopefully optimistic, and I kept telling Dr. (Paul) Faber it’s going to happen,” said Simpson Voth, chair of the art and design department at Fort Hays State University. “Now I can see it, and I enjoy looking at it every day. It’s like Christmas in September.”
On a breezy, chilly morning Friday, Simpson Voth got her first chance to publicly show off the new art and design building going up on the site of the former Davis Hall.
With the noise from construction equipment behind them, Simpson Voth joined an art and design student and FHSU President Tisa Mason in speaking on the northeast patio of the Memorial Union at a preview of the new building – part of the activities of Homecoming 2018.
Construction on the two-story, 43,000-square-foot facility began last summer and is scheduled for completion in summer 2019, in time for the 2019-20 school year. The facility will be home to all Department of Art and Design programs, with the exception of the sculpture program, which is housed in the CAT.
The building features two separate sections thats are connected by a two-story commons area that will allow students to gather outside the classroom for “collaboration, study sessions and brainstorming,” Simpson Voth said. An 1,800-square-foot addition will provide space for storage and art collections.
The art and design department currently is housed in cramped quarters in Rarick Hall.
MaKinlie Hennes, a senior graphic design student from Downs, said she is excited for the opportunities the new facility will offer students. She will graduate in May and won’t get the opportunity to study, work and create in the new building. However, she said the new space will just be an extension to an already excellent department.
“If there is one thing that I hope to accomplish before I graduate, it would be to bring awareness to this amazing department,” she said, “and to educate others on how this university, these professors and the graphic design program changed my life.”
Hennes said she will be forever grateful for the support system she has received at Fort Hays State, and she knows that the environment created on first floor Rarick Hall – the current home of the Art and Design department – will be carried on to the new building.
“The new space will unite classes, create greater opportunities for collaboration among the arts and provide students with advantages that previous classes never received,” Hennes said.
“This new building will have state of the art facilities that will take creation to a whole new level.”
The facility will provide numerous lab spaces for the various art and design programs as well as department office space, a multi-purpose lab, computers, classrooms, woodshed, studios, commons area and a ceramics kiln yard.
A major theme throughout the building is glass.
“With this new design, we are breaking out of the traditional four walls and surrounding ourselves with glass, which will allow art and color to spill into the hallways and natural light into our classroom,” said Simpson Voth, in her 20th year at Fort Hays State. “This new building is going to take what we do as artists, designers, students, faculty and programs to a whole new level of excellence.”
Mason agreed that surroundings can make a difference in the quality of learning.
“It is well documented that place matters,” she said. “There is a strong connection between students’ quality of effort and the quality of facilities and opportunities that make that effort worthwhile. Indeed, this new building creates spaces for engagement and learning – spaces that honor our mission and propel us forward in preparing our students to succeed as educators, leaders and artists.”
The new building will connect to the 5,000-square-foot former power plant, which will be renovated to provide gallery space. It will be named the Moss-Thorns Gallery in honor of former department chairs Joel Moss and John Thorns.
“At the heart of everything is people,” Mason said. “We cannot adequately celebrate this day without expressing our deep gratitude to all those who have built both the program and the buildings – old and new.”
Simpson Voth said that “every day, the first floor of Rarick Hall is alive and buzzing with creativity, innovation and inspiration,” and those same positive characteristics will be carried to the new building.
“Our future home is a place where dreams will come alive, grow and develop,” Simpson Voth said, “and will eventually go out into the world, carrying the name of Fort Hays State University with them wherever they land.”
“That is what I call success,” she said. “This new building is going to be a game changer.”
There are numerous naming opportunities for the new art and design facility. Mason thanked Joseph and Jodi Boeckner, Nate and Sara Meder, and Dolores Borgstadter as the first donors to name spaces in the new building. Donations for those spaces are part of the Journey Campaign through the FHSU Foundation, which can be contacted at 785-628-5620 or firstname.lastname@example.org.