SHERIDAN — The schematic design for the new Whitney Center for the Arts at Sheridan College was released at the Northern Wyoming Community College District board of trustees meeting Thursday night, and it is going to be grandiose.
The 42,000 square foot addition to, and the 12,000 square foot renovation of, the current Whitney Academic Center will house art, theater and music on a scale never before seen at the college.
And it’s happening fast.
The master plan for the project was approved by the college board in April, the funding was approved by the Whitney Benefits Board in June, design work began in August, a scale model was built in September, construction will begin in February and the project is scheduled to be completed by June 2016.
Gutting of the existing Whitney Presentation Hall and surrounding rooms will be required for the renovation portion of the project, and temporary classrooms are planned to house classes for those three semesters.
With a $16 million budget, the art center will cost nearly double that of the planned new tech center ($6 million), agriculture and science center ($1.3 million) and infrastructure work ($2 million) combined.
Karen Kelly of CTA Architects, John Knapp of Knapp Architecture Design Development, Sheridan College Facilities Director Kent Andersen and steering committee members NWCCD trustees Norleen Healy and Walter Wragge presented the update and a list of project goals Thursday.
The top goal of the project was to leverage interdisciplinary opportunities between the arts, and the proposed interior floorplan of the building reflects that in every room.
Honoring faculty requests for adaptability, accessibility and flexibility, the learning spaces are designed as large open rooms with plenty of storage and an abundance of natural lighting.
Music faculty requested acoustically proper teaching spaces that adapt into small recital spaces; they got it.
Art faculty requested flexible cross-disciplinary studio environments with quality daylight and proper environmental containment of multiple creative processes; they got it.
Performance faculty requested a concert hall that was adaptable to other uses; they got it.
When the presenters said their goal was to help students find their voice, it appears they meant it.
Sheridan College President Dr. Paul Young stated the crew was working with top tier specialists to ensure the new recital hall and all individual spaces offer the strongest acoustics possible.
Wragge, a former music instructor, said this is reflected in the floorplan through the angled walls. None of the acoustic learning spaces are perfect squares and Wragge said, though this design is hard to achieve, it is ideal.
Special features like a receding front portion of the stage to allow for a pit orchestra space when needed or a longer stage when not and a “bone yard” for concealed storage of large art pieces in progress or deliveries of large supplies like scrap metal, every aspect of the building is nothing if not adaptable.
An open space the trustees jokingly referred to as the “bus stop” was also included in the plan with the intention of future use in a wide variety of ways, ranging from gallery space to a place of contemplation.
With an exterior designed to reflect the layers of rock in the mountains, complete with terracotta tiles, stone facades and a large glass wall overlooking the new mall, the look commands attention.
Trustee Scott Ludwig expressed concern that the building will jump out too much and be an obvious addition to the campus.
Healy responded quickly, “We want it to jump out!,” adding that the building is more modern art looking than the other buildings, but that was the intention.
“We worked very hard as a group for it to tie into the other buildings, but this is a whole different thing: this is a fine arts center,” she said. “We want it to have its own identity on campus.”
A scale model of the schematics was built and left at Sheridan College for review by the public.