Edgewood College plans to build a three-story Visual and Theatre Arts Center, finally providing a proper home for the arts on a campus where a hallway serves as the art gallery and the theater is hidden in a dorm basement.
"If you look at any of the high schools in Madison, they will have facilities better than ours," said Melanie Herzog, professor of art history. "The most important thing is it will give us proper classrooms of the kind our students need."
Officials hope to break ground in March, pending approval by the city of Madison's Plan Commission Monday.
Planned for the southwest side of campus, the building will house studio space, classrooms, two art exhibit areas, and a theater seating about 125 people.
To get to this point, Edgewood administrators had to win over neighbors, wary that the building would disturb the serenity of the area. The arts center will sit at the end of Woodrow Street, which dead ends into the leafy Park and Pleasure Drive, a popular walking, jogging and biking trail along Lake Wingra.
It will replace a white house that was originally built for nuns at the Catholic college but now serves as an apartment for six students per semester.
"Don't get me wrong. People — especially on Woodrow — are definitely not jumping up and down to be across the street from a 44,000-square-foot building," said Maggie Balistreri-Clark, dean of students.
Building on the Edgewood campus is tricky because the 55-acre property is bordered by residential neighborhoods and the lake. Planners must avoid sacred Indian mounds that pepper the grounds, while taking care not to disturb the environment, scenic views, or concerned neighbors.
Edgewood officials negotiated a 10-page memorandum of understanding with neighbors, compromising on details large and small: the color of the brick, the level of noise generated by the heating and cooling system, and the types of light fixtures.
Shawn Schey, a neighbor on Woodrow Street, said she worried about light from the building and increased traffic, but she's pleased with the accomodations college officials made to neighbors.
"I feel it's a win win situation," she said.
The result is an $11.5 million facility that will dramatically improve the size and quality of arts space for the liberal arts college that serves roughly 2,000 undergrads, officials say. It will hold a theater with space for stagecraft and a green room, an art therapy lab, a professional art gallery, and studios for students in graphic design, ceramics, sculpture, video and photography.
Edgewood's current art gallery is in the entryway of DeRicci Hall and many of the studio spaces are former science labs, with chemistry hoods still in place. The painting studio can only hold eight students at a time. The college's current theater seats about 85 in the basement of Regina Hall.
"I'm excited to see the new art building," said Bailey Roedl, an Edgewood senior and graphic design major from Beaver Dam. "I'm bummed I won't be able to experience it because I'll be graduating in May."