By Catalina Righter
Over the summer of 2014, several large-scale renovations were started on campus, some of which are still ongoing. Such undertakings included the renovation of 100 Gibson Ave into two art studio spaces, the ongoing expansion of the Casey Swim Center, the addition of a lighted sign outside the Casey Academic Center, and the the ongoing renovation of the former Larrabee Studio Art building into a new home for the Career Center.
Yerkes Construction, located in downtown Chestertown, was the company contracted to complete the renovations. They were selected through a process where the college accepted competitive proposals “based on cost, schedule, and plan for acheiving always very tight deadlines,” according to Jay Yerkes, president of Yerkes Construction. The company has a long history of working with the college, and previously worked on projects such as window replacements at the customs house, several science lab renovations, and the visitor’s center in The Casey Academic Center completed last year.
The first project completed for this year were the new studio spaces located at 100 Gibson Ave, which were finished for use by studio art classes in the fall 2014 semester. Construction concluded the day before classes began.
“Gibson was extremely tight deadlines, with three months from design to completion,” said Yerkes. “We worked 24 hours a day and mostly seven days a week.” Campus construction projects often have very tight deadlines because the College must secure funding from donors before construction work can take place.
The building now contains two studio spaces and a digital imaging lab. Installation of digital projectors and a sound system are needed before the digital imaging lab can go into use. This is expected to be completed later this year.
“The new studio building is a temporary fix until we can secure a permanent building for all studio classes and activities,” said Heather Harvey, assistant professor of art. “Until that time, the two new classrooms are an invaluable improvement that increases the amount of useable floor and wall space for students to create their projects in, as well as provides a safer environment in terms of air quality.”
Her reaction to the renovation process was positive toward the many parties involved. “There is still much work to be done, but the quickly accomplished renovations that took place over the summer were remarkable for both their speed and quality,” she said. “The Art and Art History department is very thankful for the herculean efforts of the many people and College Offices who had to come together to make this happen.”
Overall the new studio spaces are being met with positive feedback. “The amount of natural light and the open, flexible layout of the two classrooms are more conducive to contemporary art practices,“ said Harvey. The studio was designed to be an improvement over the constrained spaces in Larrabee. “Students are already reaping the benefits of the new space and are responding very enthusiastically to the expanded possibilities.”
Construction on Larrabee is still ongoing and the Career Center is not expected to move into the building until January 2015, according to Director Of Career Development Jim Allison. He said that the Career center staff became aware that the location change would be happening over the summer.
“We hired two new staff and ran out of space,” he said of the reason behind the expansion into a new building. “Plus, the national trend is for colleges to invest in career development, as career operating and staffing needs to be in place to meet increasing demand.”
Admission to the college did increase from last year, with 422 new students, as opposed to 350 in the previous year.
Allsion also feels that the new location of the Career Center will be better suited to serve students due to its central location. “The building is being remodeled to be high tech and current,” he said. “It will be a better space overall… The interior will have a similar feel to the admissions welcome center, only with a different color scheme.”
In both renovations, attention on technology is being made in order to provide resources for students.
Harvey said of the new art studios, “Once we get digital projectors and sound installed and our digital imaging lab up and running later this year, we will be well on our way to providing students access to some of the most essential up-to-date teaching and learning tools.”
Allison said that new technology in the Career Center “means better presentation and learning options, plus on-site interviews with companies… Separately we will also have a mock interview room for video and critiquing interviews to help prep students.”
As the College aims to expand in student numbers and reputation, these renovations will expand the physical space and resources it needs to do so.