Rising in the heart of campus at Ringling College of Art and Design, the newly constructed Richard and Barbara Basch Visual Arts Center heralds a new chapter in the life of the august institution. Made possible in part by a generous lead gift from longtime Ringling College patrons Dr. Richard and Barbara Basch, the new $13.7-million, 38,660-square-foot complex brings not only classrooms, a new gallery and numerous state-of-the-art facilities—including the school’s first professional grade glass hot shop—but promises to transform the campus itself as a nexus of creative energy. “I’m hoping that this will flourish,” says Barbara Basch, whose desire for a glass studio on campus kickstarted the project. “That it will be an integral part of the school and we might just produce some really great glass blowers.”
Comprising two multi-purpose buildings separated by a central covered walkway that cuts through the center of campus, connecting the north and south quads, the Basch Visual Arts Center will serve as the College’s first professional-grade glass studio, but also so much more. In addition to an expansive glass hot shop outfitted with a massive furnace and two glory holes and a cold shop for carving, casting and polishing, the new facility brings state-of-the-art equipment for students studying a variety of media, including wood, metal, sculpting, printmaking, photography, digital fabrication and emerging technologies such as 3D printing and laser cutting. With classrooms and the newly named Lois and David Stulberg Gallery, as well as a central shaded thoroughfare drawing foot traffic, the Basch Visual Arts Center becomes both an educational and experiential draw, and all of these media—new and traditional—and all of these students come together in one innovative and electric space to form a vortex of creative energy that echoes and ripples out from the core of the campus like never seen before.
“The opportunity to position a variety of traditional and new media in a new building at the center of campus is going to be a focal point for everything that we do,” says Ringling College Interim Co-Vice President of Academic Affairs Jeff Schwartz. To Schwartz, the Basch Visual Arts Center is unprecedented, and the full potential remains to be seen. “It allows us to develop a curriculum, learning experiences and delivery models that don’t exist yet,” he says. “We will be leaders in how we offer the experience of art-making and art education.”
Designed by Sweet Sparkman Architects, the elegant two-building complex emphasizes both activity and openness with a sculptural sense of artistry fitting to its purpose. To the west of the central walkway, a three-story building plays host to a series of classrooms, workshops for disciplines such as digital fabrication and 3D printing and an expansive ground floor wood shop walled with glass and open to the viewing public. Balancing to the east, a single-story but high-ceilinged construction houses both the new gallery and the glass and sculpture studio workshops, each with great glass garage doors that can be raised for either ventilation or observation. Finished in zinc cladding, the design pays homage to the glass art that inspired its creation with bright red recessed aluminum accents imitating the intaglio glass etching technique and a sculptural element known as “The Shard” cutting through the northern face of the Stulberg Gallery and protruding from an elevated eastern corner. “It exemplifies the creative nature of the school,” says Sweet Sparkman Architect John Bryant. “It’s representative of the creative process and the art-making going on within.”
Lois and David Stulberg Gallery
The Basch Visual Arts Center will house the College’s newest exhibition space, the Stulberg Gallery. This gallery will host exhibitions of contemporary art, including traveling shows, exhibitions organized by the Ringling College curator and staff, and shows organized by students, faculty, or guest curators. Forwarding the mission of the Galleries at Ringling College, the Stulberg Gallery will offer visitors meaningful educational experiences and encounters with the visual arts.
More than that, says Ringling College President Dr. Larry R. Thompson, the Basch Visual Arts Center represents the future of the College, the promise of its students and an endorsement of the greater community. “The Basch Visual Arts Center is truly a physical manifestation of the incredible support of our community, and of our steadfast commitment to our students,” he says. “We are here to stay, and we are here to make some noise showing that we are well on our way to becoming the preeminent art and design college across the country and around the world. We are completely invested in the quality education of each and every one of our students and this center exemplifies our entire mission on every level. Through our rigorous curriculum and state-of-the-art facilities, we are inspiring greatness and literally watching creativity take shape before our very eyes in every moment.”
By Phil Lederer, SRQ magazine | Rendering courtesy of Sweet Sparkman Architects
To learn more about the Basch Visual Arts Center, view our website.