If you were to ever walk through the Fine Arts building floor by floor, you would find yourself travelling through a brick and tile maze decorated with outdated posters, ridiculously low-set and uncomfortable benches and classrooms that vary from floor to floor. Students who we spoke to agreed that the building is inconsistent, confusing and looks neglected compared to other buildings on campus.
Edward Smead, an adjunct associate history professor, found himself lost on the very first day of classes this semester. The Fine Arts building is actually confusing enough to get a veteran professor lost traveling between the fifth and third floors. What exactly is the deal with Fine Arts?
Fortunately, the Retriever was able to get in contact with Celso Guitian, a campus planner from UMBC Facilities Management, who was able to give us a history of the building, as well as answer a few questions about the building. According to Guitian, the Fine Arts Building was built in two phases, mostly likely due to lags in state funding.
The first floor classrooms (Floor Zero), studios, offices and other spaces of floors 1-4 were built during the first phase, which was completed in 1969. This phase also included stairs and elevators on opposite ends of the building that were in preparation of the second phase. In 1975, UMBC Facilities Management finished the second phase, which added Fine Art’s two large wings, which contain a recital hall, a large gallery space, more studies and offices, all in order to meet the needs of the growing Fine Arts departments.
Guitian explained how the Fine Arts building has a method to the madness of its floor layout. We asked Guitian why each floor in Fine Arts looked noticeably different from each other. He said, “The interior configuration of the building has changed many times in the past 45 years to accommodate changes to our programs. The building design has allowed for this. It also accommodates large spaces like the CADVC Gallery and the Recital Hall that are two stories.”
Another popular question regarding Fine Arts is why the building is home to so many different departments, including history, American studies, Asian studies, Africana studies, global studies, cinematic arts, media & communications studies and so on. “When the theater, dance and music departments were moved to PAHB in 2014, half of Fine Arts was left vacant,” said Guitian. “The university then made the decision to consolidate the Dean of the College of Arts and Humanities along with nearly a dozen humanities departments into Fine Arts from other areas on campus.”
Because so many departments exist within the Fine Arts building, there are many humanities students who use the building on a daily basis, and have thus developed strong opinions of their daily working spaces. All of the humanities students that we spoke to agreed that the building is odd and in need of better care. “I personally refer to the building as FARTS. It’s a weird little place – it’s pretty gross and dingy and nowhere near as pristine as PAHB. Room 221A in particular is extremely cold,” said Hannah Geiger, a junior cinematic arts major.
Jari Neuman, a fellow junior cinematic arts major, said that, “Structurally, I think the building could be improved. Better studios for film and photo majors would be a start. Recording spaces that were sound proofed would also be a great help.”
Leslie Gray, a junior intermedia major, added, “I think the building is dark and sad. Most of the windows are covered, impossible to see through, or completely absent, which sucks if you’re in there all day.”
Despite the need for improvement, the students agreed that they still consider FARTS their home. Geiger said, “The film department is a weird little home to me. I look forward to spending four straight hours with the same people each week in a little room watching films on the projector. They also have amazing equipment and archives stored there.”
Neuman shared a similar sentiment: “Most of my classes are in the Fine Arts and most of the friendships I’ve formed have been in those class rooms. At the end of the day, a lot can be improved, but it’s my home on campus and I love it.”