USF selects firm to build new visual arts facility

After nearly 10 years of anticipation, the College of Visual and Performing Arts will get a new facility. Director of Facilities Planning and Construction Ron Hanke announced the architectural firm that will construct the projected $46 million building Thursday.

Hanke said architectural firm Hanbury Evans Wright Vlattas was selected, and contract negotiations are expected to begin this month. Assistant Dean of the College of Visual and Performing Arts Barton Lee said tentative plans slate construction to begin toward the end of the year, possibly as soon as October.

Since 1996, the college has been on USF’s Capital Improvement Plan (CIP) and was listed as the school’s top priority in 2005. According to Lee, the proposed layout of the facility has been outlined and will be discussed with the building contractors for approval. The program plan began during a 2002 feasibility study, he said.

The new building will be built on the parking lot across from the recently constructed parking garage on Laurel Drive and the psychology building. The contingent plans include a new concert hall, recital halls, lecture halls, libraries, numerous studio spaces and administration offices totaling nearly 100,000 square feet.

Lee said that acoustics are a main concern for the college and that a separate acoustic technician will concentrate on sound isolation.

Currently, most instrumental and choral students are being taught in the Fine Arts building. Built in 1963, the Fine Arts building was originally supposed to hold only 100 undergraduate art students. Today, that number has grown to more than 400 art and music students.

According to Lee, the Fine Arts building may be the next project up for renovation once the new facility is built. Hanke said it’s currently on the school’s CIP.

Bryan Shuler, an assistant professor in the College of Visual and Performing Arts, said the students and faculty outgrew the current facility years ago. The students are frequently forced to practice instruments outside in the courtyard due to lack of space.

“The performance space needed for an extremely active college where we are putting on dance, music and theatrical performances on a weekly basis is far inferior and cannot handle the load and requirements,” Shuler said.

Most students and faculty must practice and perform in a building with older architecture, and because all of the rooms lead directly outside, humidity control presents a problem. Mold, leaks and asbestos have been found and treated in the Fine Arts Building in the past.

“Our facilities in the college are used on a daily basis to the maximum,” Shuler said. “After 30-some years, it will take a toll on a building.”

According to Lee, construction of the new facility has been delayed because the USF campus is always expanding. He said he thinks the college would have a larger program if a new building was built earlier.

“That is an aspect of a growing campus,” Lee said.

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