The Colgate Scene
July 2002

Little Hall: transforming art at Colgate
Little Hall
[Photo by John D. Hubbard]

Ask a member of the faculty in the Department of Art and Art History about the key to the success of Little Hall, and they will likely say something like this: somebody listened to them.

As a result, the department is now operating from a structure that since its opening in January 2001 has transformed the teaching, creation and presentation of visual art at Colgate.

"This building works because the faculty were in on the design from the beginning," said Professor John Knecht.

From its fully equipped digital lab, to Golden Auditorium, to the studio spaces designed to fit each teacher's particular needs, to Clifford Gallery, the design of the $14 million building is based on the basic structure of a camera -- simple and functional.

"The inside of a camera is a clean rectangle that's black, gray and white, designed solely for the reception of images," Knecht said. "This building is black, gray and white, with clean lines, and is designed solely for the reception, display and the making of images."

The first area where Little Hall (named for its principal donor, the late Wm. Brian Little '64, former chairman of the Board of Trustees) is having a major impact is in teaching, especially in those areas where studio time is necessary, said Associate Professor Mary Ann Calo, who chaired the art and art history department until the end of the 2001-02 academic year.

"The classrooms are a hundred percent improvement over what we had before," Calo said. "In the basement of Ryan, our old studio building, we had video, photography and printmaking sharing the same space. Printmaking and photography had to share half of that basement. Video was essentially being taught in a converted closet for years."

Little Hall has enabled the art and art history department to double the number of darkroom stations, and more than doubled the number of computers in its digital lab. Studio areas such as print-making, video and photography each have their own spaces, Calo said.


With 15 computer stations, the new digital lab in Little Hall offers students more time to spend on their work. [Photo courtesy of the art and art history department]
"For the first time, I have a studio students can shoot in, and we have four editing suites that are state of the art," said Knecht, who teaches film studies.

The 135-seat Golden Auditorium, equipped with a 35-mm projection system and Surround Sound, is the "finest screening room" in New York State outside of Manhattan, Knecht said.

"Golden Auditorium allows me to show students Eisenstein or Citizen Kane as they should be seen," Knecht said.

Assistant Professor Carol Kinne, who teaches digital art and combined media, is now teaching in a digital lab she designed that has 15 computer stations.

"The new lab allows students more time with their projects and enables me to have more interaction with them," Kinne said.

The digital lab, along with the Clifford Gallery's multimedia capabilities such as Internet access, made Little Hall a perfect location for "Meta-Forms" (merz.colgate.edu/meta-forms/), an exhibition of digital art held last spring. Kinne remembers that when planning was underway for "Meta-Forms," members of the exhibition's co-sponsor, the New York Foundation For The Arts, bemoaned the lack of an adequate facility in central or upstate New York.

"I said, `Ah, ha, yes we do,'" Kinne said.

The Clifford Gallery offers an exhibition space that also compares favorably with galleries in New York City or Boston, said Associate Professor Lynette Stephenson, who directs the gallery. Artists such as Sheila Pepe, Sandra Filipicci, Mary Lucier and others have or are creating works specifically for the Clifford. Witnessing the installation of such works gives an important perspective to students, Stephenson said.

"The students can see that everything doesn't take place in the studio, that how something is presented is a large part of the work," she said. "The space it's in helps you to see a work in a different way."

It's an experience that seems to be influencing students in the presentation of their own art, said Stephenson, who noticed the change during the installation of a student exhibition this past year.


As an exhibition space, Clifford Gallery compares favorably with galleries in cities such as New York or Boston. [Photo courtesy of the art and art history department]
"Students took extra care about everything, from the lighting to the spacing between each work," she said.

Calo believes there is a positive cumulative impact to exhibitions such as "Meta-Forms," expanded film offerings in Golden Auditorium and the enhanced ability to hold special events such as "Laying Claim," a conference held last fall on the expression, criticism and history of artists of African descent in the Americas.

"We have a dynamic department and a lot of good teachers," Calo said. "A lot of it has to do with their sense of pride at being able to work in a first-rate facility. This building makes people really proud to be art majors."

Little Hall's capabilities make it a "perfect building," Calo said, for a new emphasis on film and media studies. A minor in film and media studies will be introduced in 2003.

"That's a very exciting development," Calo said.

Knecht sees Little Hall as an "academic tool" that will help boost student recruitment and "take Colgate to a better place."

"If you want to study art in a liberal arts college," said Knecht, "this is the place to come to."

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