Fine Arts gets a state-of-the-art home

Fine Arts Undergraduate Chair Julie Schneider looked like a kid in a candy store as she led me through the new Charles Addams Fine Arts Hall a few weeks back.

“I’m so pleased to be here,” she said, “and could not have imagined how well it all turned out.”

It turned out that the fire that destroyed what was to have been Charles Addams Hall was a blessing in disguise, for the fine arts department wound up getting a larger building — the former Faculty Club — as a consolation prize.

And according to Schneider, the department filled it with just about everything it had on its wish list.

For starters, there’s a PC lab equipped with powerful digital animation software. Another lab has the latest Power Macs and video editing software.

For the most part. The lab has a few PCs, which the department hopes to replace soon. Which would be good news for Mike Silverstein (C’01), who was editing his final project on a PC “and regretting every moment of it.”

What he didn’t regret, though, was the overall fruits of the fine arts department’s investment. “Of all the departments that deserve more money for the education of all the students, it’s fine arts,” he said with a straight face.

That money appears to be well-spent. The painting and modeling studios have plenty of northern light, a result of the glass curtain wall President Judith Rodin insisted wrap the building. “I thought it was a waste at first,” Schneider said, “but it’s so marvelous coming up Walnut at night and watching it glow.”

As we toured the well-equipped photography labs, Schneider contrasted the new facilities to what she found when she arrived at Penn six years ago. “When I got here,” she said, “there were five enlargers, three of which were broken.” All of the 20-plus enlargers in the two black-and-white labs and the new color developer are working just fine, it appears.

And thanks to state-of-the-art ventilation, the rooms didn’t smell like photo labs or artists’ studios. Even the room that housed the department’s five clay kilns was so well-ventilated that Schneider and I didn’t even break a sweat as we stood there while all five were running.

So with all these goodies, what else could the department want? Well, Schneider would like an amphitheater for viewing models. But that will have to wait. “We don’t have any money for anything,” she said. “We blew it all on this building.”


Originally published on May 31, 2001