Project barn provides creative space

John Brown University plans to install a new studio and project space for art and engineering majors to utilize in their work on student gallery exhibits and intricate robots for NASA competitions.

Charles Peer, professor of visual arts, and Dave Andrus, visual arts department head, have been instrumental in the planning of this new initiative. The pair founded the visual arts department nearly thirty years ago and this new facility will be named after the dynamic duo: Peer-Andrus Studio and Project Barn.

Once settled in its new home on Broadhurst Road in the Northwest corner of campus, the 16,800-square foot building will house workshops for the art and engineering departments. The space will be divided in two with specific tools for both departments, such as project space, a photography studio and a covered outdoor area for three-dimensional projects. Construction is scheduled to begin in winter 2017 with a proposed completion deadline of summer 2018.

While Balzer Technology Center and Windgate Visual Art East and West are beautiful and well-equipped facilities, they lack the necessary project space for design students.

While freshman, sophomore and junior engineering majors create small scale projects, the senior projects are the biggest endeavors and take up the most space.

“We have a senior lab. . .but that lab’s pretty small. Next door, they have the entire machine shop and wood shop area but. . . it’s shared with everyone. Freshman through seniors can use that area to work on projects. The idea of having an actual space for seniors to be able to put their projects, that means that freshman through juniors can actually use the labs,” Jonathan Kohl, junior engineering student, noted.

“Right now, the labs don’t even have the junior design projects because the seniors have their design projects,” Kohl stated. “So, next semester, we’ll have our design projects in there too so it’s going to get really cramped really fast. It’s such a little space. Granted, you get to know each other pretty well but we already know each other pretty well by that point.”

The new facility will allow additional workspace for junior and senior projects while creating free space in Balzer.

The engineering students aren’t the only ones feeling cramped. Todd Goehner, associate professor of visual arts, said, “We have a woodshop now that’s really not useable. . .We have some equipment that’s put away in a corner because we don’t have a lot of space for it right now like 3D printers that will be out and available once we have more space.”

As President Chip Pollard stated in a recent press release, “Art and engineering are two of our largest programs at JBU. This project will enable us to match the growth of these programs, expand our students’ hands-on education opportunities and enable our faculty to engage in more project-based teaching.”

Along with increasing workspace availability and educational opportunities, the new facility will allow for more social interaction. Moriah Quarles, junior Photography major, said, “What will be really great is the creative space. It’ll be a really fun spot to have more space to do stuff together. It’ll be great just being able to work on our skills together in a space set aside just for us to do those things whether it’s studio work or in the woodshop trying new things.”

The Peer-Andrus Studio and Project Barn is an essential addition to the JBU community and campus that will be valued by art and engineering students as well as their instructors. It will also allow for non-design students to observe the challenging and rewarding work that design students put into their projects.