by Demi Manglona
UT’s summer developments have reshaped campus and added new resources for students. With the goal of removing all buildings that were part of the Florida State Fairgrounds, North Walker Hall is now extra green space. Construction started on the old Edison Building and dance studio on Spaulding Dr., and its renovated 4-story successor is set to become the Ferman Center for the Arts by Fall 2020.
In a letter sent over this summer, President Vaughn said extending North Walker Hall is part of a long-term plan to remove all buildings from the Florida State Fairgrounds, which were held on UT’s campus until the mid-1970s. The Fairgrounds Archway on Spaulding Dr. will be the only structure preserved as a homage to UT’s past, Vaughn wrote.
“I think you will like how it opens the center of campus and creates a new view corridor,” said Vaughn.
Senior psychology major, Abby Nerogic, said she likes how UT is trying to expand and improve the campus, but she wishes there were more spaces for her to study.
“I often commute to campus and in between classes, sometimes it’s difficult to find a quiet place to sit and do homework or charge my laptop or phone,” said Nerogic.
Presently, the art department’s creative studios are inside the Saunders Art Center, which used to be an exhibit building for the Fairgrounds almost 100 years ago. In it’s online building preview, the UT website said that the existing building is “gradually failing” and UT would like to move all the current resources art students have into a newer, more reliable building.
Construction plans outline that they are moving the woodshop, painting, ceramics and dance studios to the new Ferman Center for the Arts.
New additions to the building include a 200-seat, acoustically-tuned performance hall; industry-grade recording facilities; a Center for Public Speaking; music practice and teaching rooms, and instrument storage; student meeting spaces; and faculty offices.
The full list of building features can be found here.
The new Ferman Center, at 90,000 square-feet, will be slightly larger than the existing 6-story Graduate and Health Studies building that opened in Fall of 2018, according to the UT website.
“As students prepare for an uncertain future economy dominated by artificial intelligence and rapid automation, we know that creativity and strong communication skills will be critical to future success,” said David Gudelunas, dean of The College of Arts and Letters (CAL). “We expect this new building will allow the college to continue to grow and evolve.”
Along with new resources, Gudelunas also said many CAL professors and faculty will move their offices into the new building.
According to the building previews, the central focus of the new Ferman Center will be a “multi-use lobby space that provides gallery walls for displaying art work, which leads into another area for music and dance performances.” For junior art major, Jay Price, he is most excited about the new recording studio and art gallery.
“I love seeing what people around me are working on and where their heads are at,” said Price. He said he hopes the gallery will be updated with new work often.
Though the building is geared towards creative majors at UT, Gudelunas said students from all majors can benefit from the new developments. There will be student meeting and study spaces throughout the building, similar to the study spaces in the Maureen A. Daly Innovation and Collaboration Building.
Aside from utilizing the study halls, Gudelunas said he expects students from all majors to come and see the art galleries, watch dance and music performances, and get help for presentations through the Center for Speech. Some humanities courses will also take place in the new arts center.
“There’s so many talented people [at UT] and getting the departments closer opens those doors,” said Price. “Hopefully it will eliminate so many of the people from non-art departments saying things like ‘I’m not creative’ or ‘I can’t do art.’ Art is for anybody.”
According to the UT website, the building is being constructed and designed to the standards of the Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) certification. If the Ferman Center meets the requirements for green development, it will be the eighth building on campus to be granted certification, along with the Maureen A. Daly Innovation and Collaboration Building, Howard and Patricia Jenkins Hall, the Science Annex, and Dickey Health and Wellness Center.
LEED requirements include “energy savings, water efficiency, CO2 emissions reduction, improved indoor environmental quality, and stewardship of resources and sensitivity to their impacts,” according to the UT website.
Demi Manglona can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org