Art Works

Amid the dust and demolition, cranes and construction, renovations and reconfigurations, many of the arts facilities at Ohio State are getting a major overhaul—and going green—with a series of building projects around the Oval. Hughes, Hopkins, Hayes, and Sullivant Halls are seeing significant investments and extensive improvements.

College of Arts and Sciences Executive Dean Joseph Steinmetz says it’s high time.

“The last major building project in the arts was more than 30 years ago when Weigel Hall was constructed in 1979,” he said. “Today, we look at the arts as a major front door to the university, not only for our students but for the community as well. The facilities are simply not adequate for an institution of this caliber, so we are putting a lot of effort into making improvements. "Our arts programs, faculty, and students at Ohio State are outstanding—to maintain and improve we need outstanding arts facilities as well."


Built in 1948, Hughes Hall underwent some much needed renovation over the summer. “Thanks to Executive Dean Joseph Steinmetz, the university and the College of Arts and Sciences have taken a big step by pushing forward this investment. It’s really a breath of fresh air,” said Richard Blatti, director of the School of Music. “People will notice the acoustical treatments right away.”

Emily Patronik practices bassoon.

Acoustical improvements in the music practice rooms mean better bassoon practices for Emily Patronik.

The renovation, started when spring quarter wrapped up in June, was completed within a tight timeframe to be ready for faculty and students returning in September. “It was a really intense project but I’m very pleased with how it’s turned out,” said Peter Tender, music technology administrator and project coordinator.

Renovations included:

  • Asbestos abatement. Lurking mainly in the flooring tiles, asbestos was removed and new floors were installed.
  • Painting and upgrading. Rooms,hallways, lockers and the recital rooms all were spruced up with a fresh coat of paint to boost aesthetics. And some rooms, including the large and most-used classrooms, are now air conditioned, Blatti said.
  • Sound buffering. The building was noisy, with sounds bleeding between studios and practice rooms, and into the auditorium.

“A voice student might be ‘accompanied’ by a trombone practicing in the next studio, and you could always hear trucks rumbling out back,” Tender said. “Plus the air ducts in the building were straight-lining the sounds up and down the hallways and between floors.”

To solve these problems, new air ducts were installed and soffits were built around them, creating turns and corners that prevent sound from being conducted so easily. Floors were layered and raised to buffer sounds from below, and new walls were constructed over existing walls to help block noise.

This improvement is a “biggie” for the students, said Tender. “When students are practicing in adjacent rooms now, they won’t be able to hear each other’s music.”

Emily Patronik can vouch for that. The third-year doctor of musical arts (DMA) bassoon student said the practice rooms previously “were horrible—loud and boomy and just not very good to practice in. You could hear everything, like a trumpet blaring in the next room. I couldn’t believe the difference when I came back. Now I don’t really hear anyone else when I practice and that makes it easier to concentrate on my own music.”

“The project strived to improve the acoustic nature of the building,” added Nikolina Sevis, senior project manager with Ohio State’s Facilities Operations and Development. “We’re very glad it could be completed over the summer, and provide some significant building improvements.

“It’s definitely part of Ohio State’s overriding One Framework Plan to improve our existing facilities and space. That’s the key—making improvements to space that we already have.”


Perhaps the most visible current project is a complete renovation of Hopkins Hall, now halfway through its two-year, two-phase plan. On the outside, the dated brick exterior of the 52-year-old building has been replaced with gleaming walls of glass.

On the inside, the entire structure has been reconfigured to create brightly lit and more effective use of space for the artists, all with a nod to sustainability and energy efficiency.

Undergrad John McCaughey’s art studio.

Undergrad John McCaughey’s art studio is spacious and bright, photo courtesy of Shellee Fisher Davis

“The biggest change is bringing nearly all of the art programs together in one building,” said Sergio Soave, chair of the Department of Art. “Photography, print-making and art and technology have moved into Hopkins, joining painting and drawing, and ceramics. The programs are together and we’ve created new computer labs, new photography labs and a new print shop, along with 25 studios. "We’re turning the building into a studio-based building. We have studio spaces and production spaces so that art making is the true focus."

The change was precipitated because Haskett Hall, formerly home to some of the art programs, is being demolished to make room for a new chemical and biomolecular engineering and chemistry building. Glass and sculpture remain in their west campus studios, Soave said.

The most noticeable interior improvement is the abundance of natural light, thanks to self-supporting glass “curtain walls” that encase two entire facades of the building, facing north and south. “We’ve more than doubled the amount of natural light coming into the studio spaces,” Soave explained. “That’s great for students making art. We’ve also opened up large spaces where students can work together.”

Laura Lisbon, professor of art, thinks the changes are a huge step forward. “This is my 20th year teaching here, and to see this kind of commitment to the arts is wonderful. It’s a bit disruptive now, while construction crews are still working, but it’s all worth it,” she said. “The open spaces help students communicate with each other and work together. And the huge windows make the artists and their work more visible to the campus community. People can see into the building and see the students at work. It’s a great, contemporary step.”

Photography graduate student Kristen Spickard added, “The building functions a lot better now, and it’s nice to have everyone together. The natural light is nice, too, especially in winter. It can be kind of gray here.”

As part of the building transformation, the former Hopkins Hall Gallery has moved to a location at South Campus Gateway, known as the Swing Space Gallery, for about two years. Eventually, the gallery will be located in a renovated Sullivant Hall. The Department of Art Education now has a temporary residence in Ohio Stadium and will also move to Sullivant Hall once renovations are completed there.

Additionally, Hopkins Hall is going green. The building will seek a Silver LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) Certification—a rating system devised by the U.S. Green Building Council to evaluate the environmental performance of a building.

“The entire building will be much more efficient,” said Soave, “with new energy-saving lighting fixtures throughout. We’re also using recycled materials and refurbished equipment wherever we can to make the building as sustainable as possible.”

Jennifer Son, project manager with Braun & Steidl Architects in Columbus, detailed the sustainable characteristics:

  • Plumbing: Low-flow fixtures and automatic controls on faucets have been installed, resulting in a 30 percent reduction in water usage.
  • Lighting: Classroom lights automatically adjust to the amount of natural light streaming in, dimming when it’s brighter outside. Occupancy sensors turn the lights off when no one is in the room.
  • HVAC: The next phase of the renovation upgrades the heating, ventilation, and air conditioning systems. The new automated system will result in a 15-percent energy savings.
  • Building envelope: Encasing the exterior in high-efficiency glass makes it more sustainable—and also makes people happier. “People can view in from outside and view out from inside,” Son said. “That connection with the outdoors is important; it improves our attention, increases our productivity, and makes us feel better in our buildings.”
  • VOCs: During construction, use of VOCs (volatile organic compounds) has been carefully monitored, with crews using paints and finishes that leak fewer contaminants into the air.

Hopkins Hall is bustling with activity now; studios, labs and classrooms are in use by students and faculty. However, construction will continue for another year on the HVAC system. “We’ll upgrade 5,000-square-foot chunks of space at a time throughout the year, moving people out temporarily so we can work,” said Bill Holtz, OSU construction manager. “We’ll be replacing all duct work and installing three new air handlers and a new chiller. It will be tricky to move people in and out—but we’ve got a plan.”

Once the work is done, the courtyard on the south side of the building will be re-landscaped to create a more active gathering space for students.


Hayes Hall.

The Department of Design moved from Hopkins to a renovated Hayes Hall next door. Said Paul Nini, chair of the department, “Design previously was split between Hopkins and the basement of Hayes. Now, all three programs (interior, industrial and visual communication design) are together on the first and second floors in Hayes.” The building was renovated last year, with spaces on the second floor revamped to make way for open studios.

"The students are absolutely enjoying the new spaces; they are well organized and everyone’s together, making room for lots of student interaction and collaboration."


From 2011 to 2013, Sullivant Hall, home of the Department of Dance and the Music/Dance Library, is also undergoing a major transformation. According to Susan Petry, chair of the Department of Dance, the changes will create more visibility and better spaces for students.

"The crown jewel of the building will be a state-of-the-art, flexible performance space in the center of the building on the third floor, said Petry. “The roof is being raised to provide natural light during the day, and a dynamic black box performance space at night."

Architectural rendering of  Sullivant Hall.

Architectural rendering of  Sullivant Hall, courtesy of George Acock, Acock Associates

Four newly designed studios on the west end of the building will be added above three current studios on the second floor. Walls of windows will let in natural light, opening the space to allow more visibility to the campus and community.

Sullivant Hall’s former auditorium will revert to being a lecture hall, and department offices will move to the third floor. Other changes will include a new wellness studio, costume shop, student lounge, and open workstations.

While demolition and construction is taking place, the Department of Dance has moved to Lincoln Tower, Pomerene Hall, and Drake Performance and Event Center. It will move back in 2013. Meanwhile the Music/Dance Library, a leading collection of 170,000 books and scores and 35,000 CDs and videos, has moved permanently to a new home in the Science and Engineering Library.

The massive renovation of Sullivant Hall is being undertaken, in part, to accommodate the Billy Ireland Cartoon Library and Museum, the world’s largest academic facility dedicated to cartoon art, which will move there from its former home in a lower level of the Wexner Center. Once construction is completed, the university’s art gallery and the Department of Art Education will also take up residence in Sullivant.

Are all of these changes part of a bigger plan? According to Executive Dean Steinmetz, the university’s recent One Framework plan calls for the creation of an Arts District at 15th Avenue and High Street.

“These changes are all very compatible with that view,” he said, “and create a wonderful front door to the university.”