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Sense of Place

Sense of Place

Arts Barn at Sweet Briar College (Va.)
University Business, Jan 2007

Located close to the country's largest artist colony, SWEET Briar College takes the arts seriously. Equipment from the 3,250-acre campus's working dairy was auctioned off in 1994. Could the college still utilize the buildings? "Our options were to watch [them] decline and be an eyesore, or tear them down, which would have destroyed part of the college's heritage," says Paul Davies, vice president of finance and administration.

FUNCTION: Studio space and faculty offices

PROBLEMS: Sweet Briar faced several issues: an old gym was the dance studio's home; studio arts were spread out around campus in facilities needing upgrades; the campus community sought a larger workout area; and the Environmental Studies program needed space. Converting the old Sweet Briar Dairy to a Studio Arts Farm complex would solve all these problems.

SOLUTIONS: Back in 2000, the ceramics and sculpture studio were moved from an old train depot on campus to the old milking barn, and Environmental Studies took its old space. Plans for renovation of the old dairy barn soon got underway, and after eight months of construction, its renovation was complete this past summer. It now houses several studio arts disciplines; these departments' previous spaces were converted into a new dance studio and theatre rehearsal area, and the former dance studio was renovated to add fitness facilities. A photography studio and darkroom are also located in the barn. Oak and chestnut floors were milled from the barn's original joists, and high ceilings and natural light provide a spacious feel. "Students and faculty appreciate being together in an environment where ideas and creativity can flow between the various disciplines of studio art," Davies says.

But the complex is not done yet. A longer-term goal calls for adding a gallery and classroom space to one of the remaining dairy farm buildings within the next five to 10 years.

COST: $950,000

PROJECT TEAM: Architect David B. Giles, Lynchburg, Va.; C.L. Lewis Construction & Company, also of Lynchburg -M.E.

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