Knox has received $5 million to begin fundraising and planning to build a new academic building for studio art and art history, President Teresa Amott announced in an email and to prospective students and families on Friday. The money was donated by alumni Dick and Joan Whitney Whitcomb, class of 1957 and 1956, respectively, which marks the largest in Knox history.
“It is a rare opportunity in the life of the college to have donors so generous that they would launch a new building … we’re just very excited and very grateful for them, because their gift means we can start right now to engage faculty and students in designing and developing a vision for how art will be made and taught and critiqued at Knox,” President Amott told TKS.
The new building, which will be Knox’s first new academic building in over 40 years, will provide spaces to create and discuss art as well as faculty offices and space for senior capstone projects. This will provide much-needed studio space for art students.
“I think having a bunch of studio space in a separate area will be nice for everyone. Now there just aren’t enough spaces for everyone,” sophomore and studio art major Lana Copeland said.
“Studio art in part has a very special requirement. You want to have a space that’s tough and durable because art is messy, and so to be able to have that kind of a space that’s designed specifically for art will be very exciting,” Amott said. “CFA was also designed for art, but it was designed for art 40 years ago or longer than that. Now we can have a space technologically appropriate for this space.”
The Whitcombs, who now live in Atlanta, are avid supporters of Knox and of the arts. They originally donated $500,000 to name the Dick and Joan Whitcomb Heritage Center on the third floor of Alumni Hall, and then donated an additional $750,000 to the project. They declined to comment on the donation.
According to Associate and Chair of Art Mark Holmes, the idea for a new art building has been in the works since about five years ago when the art department realized it was outgrowing CFA, which was built in the early 1960s.
“[CFA] was built at a point when painting was something you did on an easel and sculpture was something you did on a pedestal, and that’s just not something that’s true. Period. Artists do big things out in the world: their paintings are big, the sculptures are the size of automobiles,” Holmes said.
He and Amott went on a tour of the art department, which is currently spread to seven locations on campus. At first they began to discuss expanding CFA, but decided on moving the art department altogether.
“She recognized that building a new building would solve that,” Holmes said. “She got it and she developed a vision. It’s her vision.”
The building will be located in an old lumberyard on the Northeast corner of Prairie and Berrien Street and is due to range around 24,000 square feet.
“We began to realize that this isn’t out of the ordinary for art buildings to be a little out of the way. A building that might not be appropriate to the center of the campus could be built,” Holmes said. “It’s not outside of campus, and it’s on the periphery a little bit, but it’s our expectation that the college will morph in its shape to embrace it a little.”
The new site off campus gives the department liberty to build in a way that’s “strikingly new,” according to Holmes.
“If we were building out in the Quads or something there would be expectations about what that building would have to look like. If we’re going to do this, let’s do something cool and something that will really endure into the future as our needs grow and change.”
The building would help alleviate current health and safety concerns including certain kinds of standards for ventilation.
It will also help continue to bridge a gap between Knox and Galesburg.
“We want the college to be doing things that contribute not just to the energy of the college, but also have an influence on stimulating Galesburg itself. Galesburg and Knox College, their futures count on each other. And so we need to do whatever we can to lend economic energy, cultural energy, just raw human energy to Galesburg to make it a vibrant place, and we think that by building a building that’s in a zone that’s somewhat between the town and the college will have an effect,” Holmes said.
The college will choose an architect in the next few weeks and then will begin conceptual planning.