SF State began construction on a 2,000-square-foot design gallery over winter break on the lower level of the Fine Arts Building.
The gallery, set to open Fall 2016, is part of a larger project that includes the new dance studio that opened this semester in the Creative Arts Building and the reopening of the Global Museum. The University intends to transform the Fine Arts Building into an exhibition space and the Creative Arts Building into a performance center, according to Daniel Bernardi, interim dean of the College of Liberal and Creative Arts.
“Students should be able to walk into (the Fine Arts Building) and see a movie on a 2K projector, see some art in the gallery, see some mummies in the museum, walk down the hallway and go into the design gallery and see some design art,” Bernardi said.
Though most students haven’t heard much about the project yet, senior product design major Adrienne Trio, 22, said it’s an exciting move in the right direction.
“We don’t really have anywhere to display our work,” Trio said, pointing out the small, wall-mounted case inside the south entrance of the Fine Arts Building. “There’s just that little casing when you go through the door, and that’s not a really good space to display everyone’s work. I feel like (the gallery) makes our major more official.”
The design gallery will be open to the public and will offer an array of exhibits representing all design fields: product design, graphic design, interior design, apparel design and everything in between.
In addition to showcasing campus work, the design gallery plans to offer educational discussion forums, guest lecturers and exhibitions from outside the University. Gallery director Joshua Singer said one of the first showings is set to coincide with the 50th anniversary of the Black Panther Party in October and will feature a collection of 1960s and 1970s radical underground newspapers curated by Black Panther Party historian Billy X Jennings in collaboration with Stacy Asher and Aaron Sutherlen.
“It’s an exhibition which was put together at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln, and it’s traveling here,” Singer explained. “The idea (behind the design gallery) is it’s not only a way to bring in work from the outside world, but it’s also to educate our students. A class will support the gallery, so they’ll sort of get things rolling at the beginning of the semester, and then have our first showing.”
University administration allotted $1.2 million from the overall facility budget toward the construction of the design gallery and the adjacent Global Museum, but the approved budget proposal requires that the college acquire an additional $500,000 through fundraising to complete the project by summer. While it is uncertain where the extra funding will come from, Bernardi said the college excels at raising money.
“Things always cost more than you think,” said Todd Roehrman, interim chair of design and industry and associate dean of the College of Liberal and Creative Arts. “You always wish you had more money, you always want to do things a little bit differently, but you make do with what you have and you make it work.”
Bernardi said he considers campus buildings to be living spaces that must evolve alongside the SF State community, and sometimes that means reimagining the space of the college to allow for new growth.
“The University has to flex to demand,” Bernardi said. “Otherwise we’re not meeting the student interest. The (design and industry) department always wanted a gallery. They’ve probably wanted one for 40 years.”
The Fine Arts Building currently accommodates the 150-seat August Coppola Theatre, the Fine Arts Gallery and the Martin Wong Gallery. Singer said the design gallery will be a huge asset for the school.
“There’s overlap between fine art and design, but design is its own practice,” Singer said. “I think a lot of people often don’t understand what it is. Design is everywhere. Everything we look at has been designed. Everything. So (the gallery) gives us an opportunity to share that. There’s really a lot of interesting stuff out there.”
Roehrman said the University’s go-ahead on the gallery couldn’t have come at a better time.
“This program is really poised for growth,” Roehrman said. “We want to communicate to the world what a great faculty we have, what a great student body we have and what a great experience it is to study design at SF State.”