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The Dean’s Design Challenge: Student Studio Space Needs

For the past five years, the Stamps School of Art & Design has worked tirelessly to reconfigure, maximize, and repurpose spaces within the Art & Architecture building.

While the school’s freshmen enrollment numbers haven’t changed significantly since fall 2007, technological advances in the methods of making have led to curricular shifts that embrace 21st century tools alongside traditional skills and medias.

“Research, conceptualization, and material realization work together at Stamps,” said Guna Nadarajan, Dean of the Stamps School of Art & Design. “If we are to truly nurture the culture makers of tomorrow, it is our responsibility to ensure they have a strong foundation in the making methods of today and the foreseeable future.”

While the coexisting of old and new medias has led to incredibly rich work, it also introduces a fresh design challenge for our spaces: where do you house laser cutters, 3D printers, CNC routers, and other digital fabrication tools in a building originally constructed for easels, potter wheels, and looms? How do you meaningfully connect these varied practices in the teaching and learning environments in the school?

Nadarajan sought a concrete answer to this question in 2014 through a space needs analysis. A key goal of this exercise was to determine how much of an expansion would be necessary to continue to deliver our rigorous, competitive, transdisciplinary curriculum to Stamps students. The outcome of the analysis was a recommendation to add approximately 20,000 square feet of studio, instructional, and collaborative spaces.

To meet this aim, the school has decided to fully repurpose the former Jean Paul Slusser Gallery housed within the Art & Architecture building to create a two-floor, collaborative making, meeting, and learning area for undergraduate students. Major construction on this project will take place in summer 2018.

As difficult as it is to let go of Slusser Gallery traditions, this shift has paved the way for the school to open the new Stamps Gallery — an 8,000 square foot exhibition space in the heart of downtown Ann Arbor designed to provide more space and exposure for student and faculty work. And, most importantly, the repurposing of the Slusser Gallery was done in the best interest of our students, providing much-needed workspace for Stamps undergraduates within the Art & Architecture building.

“It’s important to note that we’re not creating space to expand our enrollment numbers,” Nadarajan stated. “We value our selectivity and our tight-knit creative community. But it is imperative that we do all we can to ensure the best possible education for our current students — and to ensure a sustainable, resource-rich future for the school. And much of that comes down to addressing space needs.”

The Studio Campaign Fund supports Stamps Students by enabling capital improvements and space expansion to the school. Join us in these efforts.