Art, foreign language departments change buildings

Wednesday, November 28, 2001

Art professor Ron Clayton weaves his way through the easel-crowded classroom that serves as a painting studio in Southeast Missouri State University's Art Building.

As many as 15 students are crowded into the classroom at times, leaving little room to paint.

"It's just way too small," he says.

It's a problem found throughout the three-story, brick-and-stone building where hallways and stair entryways often double as makeshift studios and art exhibit areas. Even the giant yellow and black bug sculpture that hangs on a wall outside Clayton's office looks like it's crowded into a corner.

The lack of space in the 98-year-old building is why the art department, with its 15 teachers and 124 students majoring in art, is moving into the adjacent Serena Building behind Academic Hall. The Serena Building has been all but vacant since the industrial arts classes moved into the new Polytechnic Building this fall.

The cavernous rooms that once held industrial technology labs and equipment will become art studios where students study painting and sculpture.

The move will start over Christmas break but probably won't be completed until after the start of the second semester, said Clayton, interim chairman of the art department. As a result, art classes will be spread between both buildings next semester.

Out of Grauel

The Art Building then will become home to the foreign languages department, which will move next summer from its crowded basement quarters in the Grauel Building. The department has 10 teachers and 125 students majoring in foreign languages.

"I like the Art Building. I think it will meet our needs," said Dieter Jedan, who chairs the foreign languages department.

The old building has stone facade and wooden floors.

"It has style and character," Jedan said. "I think it will help us with our recruiting."

While the relocation is expected to be permanent for the foreign languages department, it could be temporary for the art department, which hopes to be housed on the River Campus within the next three to five years. Southeast plans to turn a former Catholic seminary along Morgan Oak Street into the River Campus school for the visual and performing arts, but the project has been delayed by litigation.

Southeast crews have painted walls and made some minor renovations to Serena, but no major remodeling is being done in the building.

Still, it's a good fit for the art department, Clayton said.

"This looks a lot more like an art building," said Clayton as he toured the Serena Building this week. "It offers more of a multiuse studio atmosphere."

There's even room for students to make their own picture frames, said Clayton, sporting a cap bearing the slogan, "Fear No Art."

This will be the first complete relocation of the art department in 67 years, university historian Frank Nickell said. At one time, the department was housed in Academic Hall. It has been in its current location since 1934.

Time to go

Art major Kelly Blakeslee knows it's time to pack up. She said the Serena space will be perfect for creating sculptures. The current space is so cramped that students often move outdoors to work on their sculptures.

"We don't have big enough doorways for some of the stuff," she said.

That won't be a problem at Serena, which has a number of loading dock doors that were used to accommodate machinery for industrial technology students.

Blakeslee, 22, will graduate from Southeast in December, but she plans to enroll in an art class for the spring semester just to have an opportunity to use the new studios.

Blakeslee said professors and art students will help move artwork to the Serena Building.

"There are so many little things you can't pack it," she said. "You just have to kind of walk the stuff over."

335-6611, extension 123

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