“We’ve been dreaming about this move for 20 years. It just means possibilities…”
When the elevator doors open on the new Art & Design space in the Sawyer Building this semester, students will step into a reimagined world.
They’ll find a thoughtfully transformed space purpose-built for the needs of working art students — from “tech-flex” classrooms lined with high-powered design computers to foundation studios full of easels and flooded with natural light.
Specialized areas like the materials library, woodshop and fabrication lab, and printmaking studio create a hive of activity in the building’s lower levels that are coming to life as the makers return.
And a stunningly chic chainmail curtain, shimmering in the sunlight, offers a veiled glimpse of the sleek modern gallery space on the 6th floor. It stands ready to showcase student work alongside pieces from visiting artists in exhibits that are now accessible to the entire Suffolk community.
Purpose-built for today’s art student
“Our new spaces were designed so students can come in, lay out their ideas, draw, sketch, whatever they need to do in order to build and implement their visions,” says Art & Design chair Audrey Goldstein.
The classrooms are intimate and efficient, says graduate program director Sean Solley.
“They’re designed for a studio dynamic of 16 people,” he says. “That’s quite an important aspect of what we do within design studio, which involves delivering new content on a day-by-day basis, but also a lot of one-on-one interaction with students as they each approach their individual projects.”
High-tech control panels allow for minute lighting adjustments critical for artistic work.
Students and faculty will find themselves at the center of Suffolk’s Boston campus for the first time. Though Art & Design completely merged with the College of Arts & Sciences over 20 years ago, until now the department maintained a separate location a 15-minute walk away. That meant art students often missed out on campus activities during the day — and few students in other programs accessed resources like the gallery or art courses for non-majors.
“Innovation occurs where you put people in the same room and look at addressing certain things together, asking questions and exploring in that way.”
“When I found out that the Art & Design school was moving, I was immediately excited because I do so much on the main campus,” says Sylvan Huynh, Class of 2018. “I’m always here for dance rehearsal, classes in other departments, and my graphic design job.”
Goldstein points to touches like adjoining doors between classrooms “so that ideas and people can pass through,” physical space that reflects Art & Design’s collaborative culture. Designers don’t work in isolation, she says.
Classrooms will be equipped with lecture capture technology to record and archive classes.
For years, Art & Design professors have been collaborating with faculty from other departments to develop interdisciplinary courses that infuse visual thinking into a broader curriculum — and help art students find practical applications for their work through exposure to different disciplines.
In the spring, for example, Amy Monticello of the English department worked with graphic design professor Rita Daly and marketing professor Esi Elliot on a literary publishing course that taught students practical branding and networking skills. Daly worked with the class to create video book trailers, teaching the writers to develop visual storytelling skills.
“Learning how to visualize a story for a client allows students in English, design, psychology, or any major to use creative expression in career-oriented ways,” says Elliot.
Tech-flex and traditional studio classrooms, and faculty offices
Gallery and white box space, flexible classrooms, and huddle rooms
Materials library, lighting studio, and classrooms
Printmaking studios, woodshop, and classrooms
Interdisciplinary work encourages critical thinking and creative problem solving, preparing students for the professional world where answers are seldom cut and dried. Art & Design’s move to the main campus opens up myriad opportunities for conversation and planning among faculty in diverse fields.
“We’ve been given good opportunities to try and test out environments where we can find that cross-pollination between programs,” says Solley. “We’re going to put much more of a significant push on these opportunities to bridge the different disciplines.”
Students use the fab lab’s 3D printer to create everything from sculptures to design prototypes.
A blank canvas
The impact of the move has been immediate and even disorienting, says Class of 2019 fine arts major Liz Sheldon, like “when you come home for summer vacation and your parents have rearranged your room.”
It’s no surprise Sheldon and others are so personally invested in the space. To Suffolk’s Art & Design students, their school is home. They bring vision, talent, enthusiasm, and often tremendous amounts of coffee, and leave with sharpened skills, industry contacts, and portfolios bulging with work. In between they forge bonds and find community.
“They’re usually here to all hours — until they get kicked out of the building — doing work,” says Goldstein. “It’s pretty intense. They live here, the faculty are always here. They’re always going back and forth. I text my students all night long about the work they’re doing.”
Bringing It To Life
Cloud-based technology allows students to access their projects on or off campus – handy when inspiration strikes at 2 a.m.
There’s one aspect of the beautiful new space that doesn’t sit well with faculty or students:
“It’s so clean,” says Goldstein.
In most circles this reaction would be a compliment, not an admonishment. In an art school it’s an obstacle to overcome.
Nearly every available surface — walls, doors, every hallway and even some closets — is covered in fresh pin board, turning every clear space into an opportunity to add personality. The blank slate’s days are numbered.
“I see all these white walls and I can’t wait to just cover them with paint and posters and installations just everywhere and drawings on the walls. I can’t wait to make it our home.”