The Arts Flourish at Ohio State

Rendering of future plans for the Arts District.

The arts at Ohio State are taking center stage, and their transformation—and elevation—on campus and beyond is strikingly evident. Nowhere is that more true than at the university’s “front door,”­­ the traditional gateway to campus at the intersection of 15th Avenue and High Street, where a new Arts District is taking shape.

"The planned development of the Arts District supports the critical nature of the arts in higher education, and the natural connections between the arts and sciences." {David Manderscheid, executive dean and vice provost}

“New and renovated facilities will open up creative opportunities for students to work together in the visual and performing arts,” said Manderscheid. Our vision calls for placing a unified and comprehensive cluster of the arts at this entryway, centered around a preeminent Plaza of the Arts. This move will include expanding and reconfiguring existing spaces, renovating facilities, adding new performance venues, and opening up the university to the broader community.”

The long-range plans for the Arts District include an investment of more than $200 million. But it won’t happen overnight—renovations and changes will be phased in during the next decade and are all part of the university’s broader Framework Plan.

This investment by the university will also “distinctively expand our profile as a leader in the arts,” added Mark Shanda, divisional dean, arts and humanities, College of Arts and Sciences, “aligning our physical facilities with our historic academic strengths for the first time since the last facilities investments in the 1970s.”

Shanda said current planning efforts emphasize a comprehensive inventory of all of the performance and gallery spaces in the Arts District and then outlining what additional facilities will be needed to support our academic mission in the visual and performing arts. The plan will take shape during the next five to 10 years.

That plan calls for a consolidated area for the arts, accessible to campus and the public that enables artists, designers, musicians, actors and dancers to create and perform together. It also calls for the university gateway, the Plaza of the Arts, to be restored, serving as a hub for ideas and as a collaborative space for the arts.

Plans also include continuing renovations of existing arts facilities on the east side of campus and opening up the plaza, from
High Street straight through to the Oval, to position the university within a broader cultural corridor. This resulting corridor will extend from 15th Avenue and High Street all the way down to the college’s Urban Arts Space and CAPA’s Southern Theatre in downtown Columbus.  

"One of the key aspects of this Arts District is the re-establishment of the historic gateway to Ohio State and recreating the symbolic entrance to the university." {Joseph Steinmetz, executive vice president and provost}

“Don’t think of this renewed Arts District as just living on campus,” Manderscheid said. “Think of it as part of a larger arts corridor stretching from our campus all the way downtown, connecting and engaging the university with the city and with corporate and visual and performing arts organizations.”

Ohio State’s Town and Gown Committee for the Arts, in fact, is an advisory group dedicated to finding opportunities for collaboration among arts leaders in the city and at Ohio State. Since the 23-member committee was formed in 2012, more than 20 formalized partnerships with business and arts organizations have emerged, including a partnership with CAPA and a shared program for students with Opera Columbus.

“Ohio State’s provost has really set the bar high with the Town and Gown relationship, and that’s something that the Columbus arts community welcomes,” said Bill Conner, president and chief executive officer at CAPA. “It helps connect the arts in Columbus and provides professional opportunities for students studying at Ohio State.”

“The creation of the Arts District ‘bookends’ the arts corridor from campus to downtown,” he added. “Audiences are really going to love the new facilities oriented to High Street, and the opportunities they offer.

"Think of it—people will be able to have dinner at a great restaurant in the Short North then head either north or south to go to the theatre or a concert or a gallery." {Bill Connor}

All of the changes, Manderscheid said, are geared to making the university a leader in academic visual and performing arts and to help expand Columbus’ reputation as a world-class arts destination. “I think we’ll be right up there with preeminent arts complexes such as the Music Center in Los Angeles and the arts district in downtown Dallas, Texas.”

Recently renovated Sullivant Hall (left) and Hopkins Hall (right).

Recent Renovations

Sullivant Hall
One of the most visible changes now taking place is the complete transformation of Sullivant Hall, a three-story Neo-Classical Revival building dating back to 1912. This Silver LEED-Certified, $33 million renovation included major core and shell infrastructure improvements, and floor-to-ceiling windows have been added to let natural light flood the building and open up the spaces to campus. New dance studios and a state-of-the-art, flexible, black-box theatre have been added.

It brings together the Department of Dance; Department of Arts Administration, Education and Policy; the Advanced Computing Center for the Arts and Design (ACCAD); and the new Lawrence and Isabel Barnett Center for Arts and Enterprise. The building also houses the Billy Ireland Cartoon Library and Museum.

Sullivant Hall has been in use by faculty, staff and students since the beginning of spring semester, but a celebratory grand opening is planned for September 2014.

Hopkins Hall
Home to the Department of Art, LEED-certified renovation project was completed in late 2012 that completely reconfigured the building to create brightly lit and more effective use of space for artists, and added gleaming walls of glass to two facades to let in an abundance of natural light.

Hayes Hall
Home to the Department of Design, Hayes was renovated in 2011 to bring all three design programs (interior, industrial and visual communication design) together in one building with open studios for student work.

Future Plans

School of Music
Facilities renovations are a top priority and a School of Music New Day funding initiative is under way to raise approximately $40 million for upgrades. A new recital hall seating 200-250 people will be built to complement the 700-seat Weigel Auditorium. The plan also calls for spacious rehearsal rooms to allow student ensembles to rehearse effectively, from the 20-member Jazz Ensemble to the 100-member Men’s Glee Club.

Department of Theatre
Plans are also afoot, but not solidified, to move the Department of Theatre, and its performance spaces, from Drake Performance and Event Center on the banks of the Olentangy River to central campus and the Arts District.

Wexner Center Film/Video Theater and Mershon Auditorium
Aspects of the Wexner Center for the Arts and Mershon Auditorium will be expanded and reconfigured to create additional opportunities for integrating the academic arts with the strength of the Wexner Center’s programming.

To create the Plaza of the Arts and open up campus from High Street to the Oval and all the way to Thompson Library, the Wexner Center’s film/video theater will be removed and relocated within the area.