October 2, 2002
WITH CONSTRUCTION COMPLETE,
ART STUDENTS AND FACULTY LAY CLAIM TO NEW BROWN FINE ARTS CENTER
Ambitious Project Furthers
Smith's Legacy of Leadership in the Visual Arts
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Editor's note: An online press kit
about the Brown Fine Arts Center, including images and fact sheets,
can be found at www.smith.edu/bfac.
To arrange interviews or tours, contact Laurie Fenlason at (413)
585-2190 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
NORTHAMPTON, Mass.-Smith College's
renowned art department and art library have a distinguished
new home-the newly named Brown Fine Arts Center-thanks to the
completion of a two-year, $35-million building renovation and
expansion. At its outset, the renovation was the largest capital
project in the college's 122-year history.
Led by New York City-based Polshek Partnership Architects, the
renovation stripped the former 1972 complex down to its steel
girders and then rebuilt it entirely, transforming its architecture
and infrastructure. The art department and library opened in
early September; the center's other key occupant, the Smith College
Museum of Art, will open to the public in April 2003.
In addition to overhauling the building's aesthetics and technology,
Polshek Partnership, a leading architectural firm that designed
New York's acclaimed Rose Center for Earth and Space at the American
Museum of Natural History, added numerous upgrades to meet the
needs of students, scholars and museum visitors.
New features of the 164,000-gross-square-foot facility include
a cutting-edge, 7,000-gross-square-foot digital imaging
center; additional private studios for honors students; an
improved student gallery; and light-filled art studios in painting,
sculpture, drawing, printmaking, graphic art and photography.
All art studios received significant upgrades, including updated
ventilation and environmental controls.
The new 16,200-gross-square-foot Hillyer Art Library, one of
three branch libraries at Smith, is a prime example of the building's
new aesthetic, with its dramatic, two-story glass curtain wall
revealing stunning views of the campus. The library's new design
blends beauty with practicality, incorporating improved access
to staff, something that busy students and scholars will appreciate
as they check out and use materials, notes art librarian Barbara
The architects worked to increase the facility's size while aligning
its visual impact with its surroundings, which include Smith's
New England campus as well as the historic district in which
it sits in the town of Northampton, Mass. The design called for
a façade of a traditional brick that is approximately
the same color and size as the center's nearest neighbor, College
Hall, the college's first building. Although the building grew
by 28 percent, it remained largely within its original architectural
footprint. A highlight of the renovation is the newly enclosed
central skylit atrium that invites access to, from and through
At the liberal arts college, the study of art-which encompasses
art history, studio art and architecture-consistently ranks among
the campus's three most popular majors. The college's alumnae
include numerous prominent leaders in the visual arts, some of
whom have led major American museums, made significant scholarly
contributions to the field of art and hold leading private collections.
John Davis, Alice Pratt Brown Professor of Art and chair of the
art department, traces Smith's predominance in art back to the
college's founding. He notes that the college began by valuing
art as an academic discipline, an unusual approach since Smith's
peer institutions at the time did not find intellectual merit
in the field. According to Davis, the college built its collection
boldly, buying works directly from emerging artists, and moved
quickly to establish criteria for acquisitions. As a result,
Smith stands among the few American institutions where students
and faculty have access to a significant collection of works
of art for teaching and scholarship.
"In a sense, Smith had a lead from its very inception, and
today's campus, as we see in the Brown Fine Arts Center, still
benefits from this legacy," says Davis. "There's a
momentum that continues to place Smith at the forefront of art
in American higher education."
When the museum side of the building opens to the public, its
space will have been enlarged by 35 percent to nearly 60,000
gross square feet. An entire new floor of light-infused galleries
was added during the renovation, as were a gallery dedicated
to works of art on paper and many more flexible exhibition areas
to showcase smaller collections and special themes. Storage was
significantly expanded in order to keep apace with the museum's
Museum Director and Chief Curator Suzannah Fabing also promises
numerous amenities intended to meet the increased expectations
of today's museum-goers. These include an inviting entrance ramp,
improved visitor services, an expanded museum shop and artist-designed
restrooms and benches that are not only functional but also works
of art in themselves. The museum will also unveil several new
and significant acquisitions.
More background about the new Brown Fine Arts Center is available
Smith College is consistently ranked among the nation's foremost
liberal arts colleges. Enrolling 2,800 students from every state
and 55 other countries, Smith is the largest undergraduate women's
college in the United States.