A gateway to the arts: What's been done and what's up next in the Arizona Arts Master Plan
This is the second in a series of articles spotlighting the Arizona Arts Master Plan. The first story examined the overall purpose and vision of the plan. The next will look at how the effort will make the arts more diverse and accessible to the Southern Arizona community.
The Arizona Arts Master Plan was approved in March of 2020. That same month, of course, the COVID-19 pandemic shut down most activities on campus. It also greatly altered the timelines and cost structures of almost every project that made up the ambitious transformation of the campus arts district.
Even so, Andrew Schulz, vice president for the arts and dean of the College of Fine Arts, knew it was still important to move forward with the plan, even though it would have to be adapted. Schulz continues to work with college and University leadership on what changes need to be made to the plan that he has been working on since his arrival on campus in 2018.
"The master plan is a pretty significant opportunity to think in a coherent and integrative way about arts facilities across campus," Schulz said. "Just like with athletics, great facilities are critical for the success and training of our students."
Since work began in the summer of 2021, some projects have been completed, while others remain in the planning and design stages. The first two projects at the School of Art and the Center for Creative Photography were funded through philanthropy. Future projects are subject to change as needs, timelines and cost estimates evolve. Read more about many of the projects below.
School of Art
The School of Art building opened in 1956 and hasn't seen extensive upgrades since. The building was the first to be renovated as part of the Arizona Arts Master Plan, with the first phase of work being completed in March.
The main entrance was transformed to make the school more visible by changing the largely brick entrance to a glass entryway and moving the First-Year Experience studios and Lionel Rombach Gallery, which features student art, to the front of the building. The building also now features "hangout spaces" for students to relax, socialize and collaborate, including a new outdoor patio. This space was designed to be flexible enough to easily accommodate presentations, lectures and large events.
"From day one, this new space has lived up to all we hoped it would be," said Colin Blakely, director of the School of Art. "It is a constant bustle of activity, bringing the amazing energy and work being done in the school front and center. Whether hosting an ABOR reception, a pop-up salon showcasing student work or simply serving as a space for informal congregation and collaboration, it has increased the visibility of our work in critical ways."
The School of Art is currently in the planning stage for the next phases of the project, which could include a renovation of the Visual Arts Graduate Research Laboratory to accommodate studio spaces for faculty and visiting artists as well as the creation of a new collaborative learning space in support of larger general education classes taught by the school that serve a significant number of non-major students.
Center for Creative Photography
The Center for Creative Photography was founded in 1975 and moved into its current location on North Olive Road in 1989. The last major renovation at the building, which involved the addition of a conservation lab, was in 2012.
Renovations to the center were planned in three phases. Two are complete. The first involved a new façade featuring fiberglass panels lit by LED lights that stream in sunlight by day and reflect color by night. It also included the creation of the Alice Chaiten Baker Interdisciplinary Gallery on the first floor. The 2,131-square-foot gallery will be used for educational programming and exhibitions.
The second phase involved moving the center's digital imaging lab, which had been on the first floor, higher up in the building.
The third phase, which is underway now, centers on the creation of a large cold and frozen storage facility in a previously unfinished room. The facility will house and preserve negatives, which Megan Clancy, senior registrar for the center, says is critical not only for posterity, but also for research purposes.
"Those negatives are source code for every print that comes from them," Clancy said. "We really want to be sure that we're doing what we need to be doing to preserve that original object, because there's still so much you can learn from it. Researchers really value negatives."
The Marroney Theatre opened its doors in 1956. The 324-seat venue's most significant upgrade occurred in 1993 with the addition of new seats, carpeting, stage drapes, lighting and sound systems. Renovations are expected to begin late this fall and take about a year to complete. Arizona Arts has raised over $4.5 million in private support for the project.
"The future of Marroney is as a multipurpose facility," said Brant Pope, interim director of the School of Theatre, Film and Television. "Theater is just one component of live and screened performances that young people are interested in and where the jobs are."
Plans call for a refashioned glass lobby, using light as a theme. The performance space itself will be outfitted with upgraded seats as well as new technology, including a digital laser projector, which will allow the theater to be used as a screening room.
Other projects, still in the planning stage, include the transformation of the Arts Oasis, renovations to Centennial Hall and a new location for the University of Arizona Museum of Art.
The Arts Oasis is an arts and sculpture garden outside of Marroney Theatre. The space was created in 1998. Schulz says the reimagined oasis is a cornerstone of the master plan.
The vision for the space is a series of terraces and green spaces covered by a large canopy to accommodate social gatherings and formal performances. A second canopy could be added in the courtyard in front of the Tornabene Theatre for additional gathering and performance space. The canopies would include lighting and other technology for use in performances.
Centennial Hall's main auditorium opened in 1937. The venue underwent a significant renovation in 1984, with upgrades including additional exits, new fire alarms and new sound and lighting systems. Arizona Arts hopes to have a report outlining the scope of potential work complete by the end of the summer.
Potential projects could improve features including seating, lighting, sightlines and audio and visual technologies. A proposed pavilion next to Centennial Hall would create opportunities for informal gathering and events and improve pre- and post-show visitor flow. In addition, improvements to the Olive Grove area that stretches along Park Avenue from Main Gate to Second Street will link Centennial Hall with the Arts District.
"It is time for the University and Southern Arizona to have a world-class venue for the world-class artists and experiences we bring to our stages," said Chad Herzog, executive director of Arizona Arts Live. "A reimagined Centennial Hall will create a more engaging, flexible, and sustainable venue with the best in audience experience from comfortable seating to ample restrooms to pre- and post- performance gathering space. It will be a destination for artists and audiences alike."
University of Arizona Museum of Art
The museum has been in its current location since the 1950s and shares some infrastructure with the School of Art. The master plan calls for a new location, with multiple options being considered. Plans for the new museum include increased gallery space, state-of-the-art environmental controls and improved public visibility and accessibility.
"UAMA houses one of the most important art collections in the Southwest and functions as an interdisciplinary learning laboratory for students and faculty," said Olivia Miller, interim director of the museum. "Increased gallery, educational, and storage spaces will allow us to further our mission on a broader scale and to collect and exhibit art that speaks to the most pressing issues of our time. Furthermore, a new building with greater visibility will enhance our role as an essential gateway, connecting our campus with the broader community."
The final story in this series will examine the role that diversity and inclusion is playing in the master plan.