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New art building shines, despite lingering construction

Hello Devasthali

The NMSU Department of Art has moved into its new home, and students, faculty and staff members are making the best of what they currently have while contractors complete the finishing touches.

Orange safety fencing still surrounds portions of the grounds outside Devasthali Hall on Sept. 19, 2019. The NMSU Department of Art successfully moved into the new building just prior to the start of the fall 2019 semester. It took a year and five months to get from groundbreaking to move-in. The students, faculty and staff indicated they are pleased with the new building and the clean slate it provides, even as workers continue to add finishing touches to the facility. (Photo by Olivia Belcher/Kokopelli)

Construction of Devasthali Hall began March 27, 2018. The building is currently being used, despite it not being completely finished. The building did open at the beginning of the fall semester as projected, but there is still work that needs to be done.

Graduate student Donovan Swann, along with her fellow graduate students, moved her art studio over the summer and indicated in late September she was still dealing with a few minor challenges.

“I think it is to be expected. It is a very large building and they built it in just over a year from breaking ground to us moving in. [The challenges are] very small things, like the light switches — small details that realistically don’t impact our daily lives,” Swann said.

Faculty members are noticing the move could have waited a bit longer to avoid the inconveniences. Art Department Head Julia Barello suggested putting the move off until next semester might have made the move easier for everyone, including the contractors who are working on the building.

“The big deal with the move is that the building wasn’t ready for us, so we should have waited another semester to move in. Sometimes we even think we should move back so these workers can get in and finish everything, but we are too far gone beyond that. There is too much that has been taken apart,” Barello said.

Barello added that university personnel from inside and outside the department put over 1,000 hours into packing up the contents of D. W. Williams Hall and moving it to Devasthali Hall.

“I think it’s amazing. It’s beautiful. It’s bright. It’s light. It’s airy. It feels like you’re still a part of the outside world in some ways. I really like that.”

“[Devasthali Hall] is probably the highest tech building on campus and every media area has different ventilation needs, different chemical usage, etc., and so each media is super specific in terms of life safety processes and that had turned out to make the whole process super complicated. It has taken so long because no one anticipated the complexity of it,” Barello said.

During early talks about what the art department wanted in a new building, faculty members and others involved in the project mentioned they wanted a functional space for collaboration and a building that is meant to be an art building.

“We used words like transparency, porosity, collaboration and we have those things in the building,” Barello said.

The incorporation of floor-length windows on the outside and within the building was meant to achieve the transparency they were looking for.

Donovan Swann was very enthusiastic about the new facility. “I think it’s amazing. It’s beautiful. It’s bright. It’s light. It’s airy. It feels like you’re still a part of the outside world in some ways. I really like that,” Swann said.

Students from outside the art department have taken a look at Devasthali Hall and are positive about how it turned out.

“I think that the new art building is great. While it’s still going to take a little bit to get it completely finished, it looks wonderful so far and I think it will be well worth the wait,” said communication student and arts writer for The Round Up, Jensen Stell.

The art building is heavily used by graduate students who are provided with an art studio to produce their work. The move has impacted the grad students the most since the studios are where they spend most of their time.

“The [new] studios are all uniform versus Williams Hall where all of the studios looked different. Now there is no fighting over space or feeling [robbed] if you got a smaller studio, ” Swann said.

Goodbye Williams

There is talk of tearing down Williams Hall and making it a green area until university officials come up with new plans for the space. Attachment to the old building still exists because of its long history on the NMSU campus and its place in many of the current grad students’ lives.

“I think I am probably going to cry [when Williams is torn down] because I have spent so much time in Williams Hall. My friends made fun of me because I kept saying how sad it was going to be to leave the old building. There are a lot of memories attached to the old building, a lot of experiences, friends that I have met and hopefully [will]  keep for my whole life,” Swann said.

One of the main things about Williams Hall that will be missed is the ability for art students to modify the building itself.

“I personally loved the fact that you could paint on the walls over there. The exterior murals are what I’m really going to miss. The university is adamant that we cannot do that with this building. There is this sort of preciousness with the new building and I get that. It’s going to become the showpiece for the university for a while and they want to keep it nice. I am just going to miss how we could comfortably modify stuff over there without feeling like we were ruining something,” Barello said.

The art department’s goal is to use Devasthali Hall to attract new art students to NMSU from across the region. The hope is the brand new facility and brand new art museum will serve as a recruiting tool.

For more information regarding classes or anything related to the NMSU Department of Art, contact Dr. Julia Barello by email at jbarello@nmsu.edu.

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