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Above: While College Hall was not really the direct inspiration for the Addams Family’s house, it clearly resonated in the delightfully twisted imagination of cartoonist Charles Addams FA’34 Hon’80, as his cover illustration for a 1973 Pennsylvania Gazette indicates. Below left: Skinner Hall (which formerly housed Penn’s Faculty club) has been impressively transmogrified into the Charles Addams Fine Arts Hall.

BRICKS AND MORTAR

Rising From the Ashes, A First Home for Fine Arts

When the former Asbury Methodist Episcopal Church at 33rd and Chestnut Streets burned down in March 1997 [“Gazetteer,” April 1997], in the midst of renovations to turn it into the headquarters of Penn’s fine-arts department, it looked like one more disappointing chapter in the program’s long search for a permanent home. (It had never had one in the 140 years that Penn has been teaching fine art.)
    Instead, the disaster turned out to be the prelude to the program’s winning a coveted spot in the center of campus—at 36th and Walnut Streets, in the former James M. Skinner Hall. Once home to Penn’s Faculty Club (which has since relocated to the Inn at Penn across the street), the building has the Penn Bookstore and Sansom Common, the Annenberg School and Center, and Van Pelt Library as its nearest neighbors.
    On March 21, the renamed Charles Addams Fine Arts Hall was dedicated by Lady Barbara Colyton as a permanent memorial to the renowned cartoonist (1912-1988), who studied architecture at Penn for a year. Addams, who was ever-after influenced by campus buildings like College Hall, received an honorary doctorate of fine arts in 1980.

    Dr. Gary Hack, dean of the Graduate School of Fine Arts, described the original 1957 building as “one of the plain Jane buildings that Penn was building in the 1950s, but with excellent bones.” The designers for the renovation, Maria RomaŅach Architects, have brought out its inner beauty. The exterior has been remade by stripping the marble and brick faĮade, removing the original windows, and installing a glass curtain wall which sparkles during the day and glows at night. Inside, they replaced the mechanical systems and redesigned the interiors to create open spaces flooded with natural light, providing ideal workspaces for artists.
    Facilities include the Karesh Studios, housing drawing, painting, and video facilities; the Gutman-Nathan Clay Center, equipped with three ceramics studios, a kiln room, and plaster and glazing facilities; and the Harvey and Barbara Kroiz Chairman’s studio, occupied by the painter John Moore, chairman of fine arts [“New Faces,” March/April]. Digital media studios, extensive photography facilities, video and animation studios, and additional painting and drawing studios occupy all four floors of the building.
    Addams Hall is approached through a landscaped sculpture court, in which silhouettes of the Addams Family characters hover near the high brick walls. New iron gates will be installed at the courtyard entrance; a model of the winning design, by GSFA faculty member Mark Lueders MFA’93, is on display in the lobby. Original drawings by Charles Addams are also on display in a first-floor gallery, in an exhibit scheduled to run through May 22.


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Copyright 2001 The Pennsylvania Gazette Last modified 5/2/01