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Into the Light

Into the Light

Artists move from the basement of Presser Hall into the new Baugh Center for the Visual Arts, a state-of-the-art facility designed to inspire creativity and generate interest in the arts



In a quiet corner of a room in the new Baugh Center for the Visual Arts, senior studio art major Maddie Phillip stares at the strokes she’s made on her once blank canvas. She dabs at the blues and greens of her color palette and slides her brush across her painting-in-progress. No one disturbs her. No one interrupts this moment of inspiration. It’s just her and her art.

Phillip’s moment of tranquility just between her and the canvas would never have been possible in the art department’s old home—the cramped and often damp basement of Presser Hall. Only four, dark classrooms and a small metal building held the entire art department before the new Baugh Center for the Visual Arts opened its doors to students this semester. But despite its downfalls, the students lovingly referred to the old space as “The Dungeon,” and found ways to flourish in their surroundings.


From the depths of ‘The Dungeon’ to the light of day

“Being down in the basement, we found a sense of community and home,” Phillip said. “But this building is a breath of fresh air. Being a senior and having my own studio to work in has been the coolest thing.”

Each senior gets a space to store art supplies, set up canvases, and display his or her work. Students assigned to these rooms are allowed 24/7 access to the building with a swipe of their Cru Card and a key to a specific studio space.

And once the students have completed their senior work, their art will now be displayed in the new gallery located near the building’s main entrance.

“Having the gallery move from the library to the new building has been great,” Phillip said. “A couple of days into class, my professor took the whole class in there. To be able to look at art as a class is really cool.”

And the gallery isn’t only open to students. Art department chairman  Hershall Seals hopes that others in the community will also take advantage of the gallery.

“We hope that residents of Central Texas will keep us on their radar for coming to look at art,” Seals said.

Having this new space to display student and faculty art—Dean of the College of Visual and Performing Arts Ted Barnes and his wife, Debra Smith Barnes, were the first to have their works displayed in the new gallery—not only benefits the greater community but is also a great recruiting tool.

“If we want to be the university of choice for Christian higher education in the Southwest, then we need to have an exhibition space that proves that we are,” Barnes said. “And now we do.”

Another feature of the building that is quite a change from the department’s previous home is the natural light that seems to pour in from every angle. From the large floor-to-ceiling windows in the foyer of the building to the sky lights that bathe the top floor with sunshine, the Baugh Center has brought the department out of depths of “The Dungeon” and into the light of day.

“The change of lighting is huge,” Phillip said. “Natural light is so much better for creating good art than fluorescent lighting or anything else that we’ve had in the past.”

Dean Barnes said he believes that all of the building’s impressive features offer students a unique college experience.

“We’ve gone from an old basement to a nice, open, contemporary space designed to teach the visual arts,” he said. “Now students will have the opportunity to learn in a facility that feels more like a big-time art and design school.”


Calling all freshman interested in art

The faculty of the art department hopes that an expansion and improvement of the art facilities will translate into more incoming freshman being excited about the prospect of taking art classes.

“The art department has done very well in recruiting transfer students or people changing their majors after they’ve taken an art class. And that will continue,” Barnes said. “But I think now it will be easier to recruit that 18-year-old freshman who is looking for a place to study art in a state-of-the-art facility.”

Phillip, who changed her major after taking an art class, said she can see the already strong visual arts program growing after new students visit the Baugh Center.

“If I came here as a freshman, I don’t think I would want anything else,” she said. “I already have friends that come in the Baugh Center and say, ‘oh man, I want to change my major.’”


All you need is love

But the senior studio art major also admits that while the building may entice potential art students, the love and support of the  faculty is what will keep them there.

“When I got to UMHB, I took a couple of art classes and absolutely fell in love with the professors—not only how they taught but also how they care for their students and want what’s best for them.”

The budding artist saw how much time and effort they invested in her even before she switched her major and decided she would devote her college career to art.

“The professors understand the difficulties and the struggles that go along with being an artist, and they push you through it,” she said.

Phillip believes that potential recruits will be impressed by the new facilities and captivated by the faculty’s investment in each student.

“I think students who are interested in art are going to absolutely fall in love with this building and these people,” she said.

But when these new students come to call the Baugh Center for the Visual Arts home, Phillip said she hopes they will remember to be grateful for the facilities available to them.

“I think it would be easy for a freshman to come here and not realize how far we’ve come from the basement of Presser to now being in such a beautiful and inspiring facility,” she said. “I would tell them to really be grateful for it—every room and every space.”

– Jessa Grassi McClure ’08