Quirky, messy, funky, dusty, rickety, sweltering, charming. Former art students reminisce on all-nighters, paint-covered clothes, successes, and failures as they say goodbye to their old friend, the Art Warehouse.
Come Fall 2016, the Edward M. Dowd Art & Art History Building opens to the public. It’s a magnificent new space for the making and study of art. As we bid farewell to the old spaces where art was made—and as art and art history come under one roof—we asked for your memories and stories. Read on, and add yours.
Stepping into the “Twilight Zone”
I went to my SCU 35th class reunion in 2013 and was in awe of how beautiful our campus looked. New buildings blended in so well, landscaping was perfection; I felt like I was in Disneyland. And then I visited my old haunt, the Fine Arts Building, and was in shock; I felt like time pretty much stood still—like in “The Twilight Zone”! I stuck my head into a classroom and saw a room full of students at computers, and then I realized it wasn’t 1975 but I really was in 2013.
I am a retired high school art teacher. I taught photojournalism and witnessed the transition of submitting photo prints and typed out copy, to being able to afford colored photos and using computers instead of typewriters. I taught black and white darkroom photography and then helped get rid of all the chemicals and enlargers and changed to digital photography and computer layouts. We submitted CDs of yearbook layouts; then it all was processed through the internet. Just push the submit button, no more postage involved.
I fell in love with photography at SCU; I loved my time in the darkroom watching my photos come to life in the rocking of the pans of developer, stop bath, and fixer.
I loved viewing masterpieces of art projected on screens. I loved getting my artwork chosen for display at Freight Door Gallery—so named because it was a real freight door entrance to our makeshift student gallery. I loved my SCU Jesuit education because I loved learning everything I could in every discipline this liberal arts university provided. I loved that SCU gave me a bachelor of fine arts degree so that I could share my knowledge of art as a teacher and discover the many fine artists my students of 30 years revealed to me.
I am looking forward to the opening of the Edward M. Dowd Art and Art History Building because it’s the 21st century and SCU artists deserve the respect a beautiful building reflects. The SCU campus is a result of decisions made by those with the eyes of an artist.
Mahalo nui Edward Dowd!
Thaela Catala ’78
I remember getting very lost in the maze of rooms as a freshman, so the first day of my senior year (2012), I drew a floor plan of the rooms on the whiteboard right as you walk into the building. Returning this year for a senior art show (2016), I saw my map was still hanging where I left it—hopefully helping to guide some new art and art history students in the right direction over the years. I’m guessing the new building is a little more user-friendly, or I'll offer my floor plan creation skills again!
Tyler Knapp ’13
P.S. If you want a picture the map is probably still there...
God Bless the Old Warehouse
Do I have memories of the Art Warehouse? Tons.
I remember the first time I walked in with my pink sheet of paper that Dr. Drahman gave me after our initial meeting about declaring a major in art history.
I loved the warehouse. I liked that it was “alternative” in every way, like a building that should be for outlet shopping ... exposed insulation tubes, high ceilings and chaos ... Nothing was in its place ... I thought the place was a mess ... student artwork hung in the entrance and in the main hall—all random places ... Then there was the hot and stuffy office with a very gracious and kind office manager named, aptly, Gratia ... I remember that Gratia was an artist and her own art was the decor of the space—big, multimedia, and I think it was a Chagall-esque tribute to her father—I loved it!
The main office with Gratia was a shared space divided by a glass sliding door with the chair of the department, Dr. Brigid Barton. I remember speaking with her about the degree during that first visit. I can close my eyes and see her there—it was too warm—I recall no air conditioning and feeling stuffy ... But there she was ... Dr. Barton used the most incredibly chic fountain pen, she had lovely white hair, a youthful face, and great clothes ... I sat there and said: “I did not know there was a major in art history and I am undeclared and Dr. Drahman interviewed me and when he asked me what homework I liked—and what exam I never had to study for and aced—I told him that I took fine arts my senior year in high school and loved it.”
Dr. Barton then outlined with that fabulous pen on that pink paper every class I needed to take, starting that week up to my graduation day to have an art history degree by June 1993 … I remember her encouraging me to study archaeology for my anthropology requirement and to study abroad my junior year … a choice that changed the course of my life ...
The slide lectures for art history were in what seemed like a warehouse “spare room”—a very dark room—possibly the most aesthetically unappealing room in the history of art ... Admittedly, I slept quite a bit during those slide shows ... It was hard not to! With the lights off, in an already dark room, the low buzz of the slide machine and worse yet ... if you sat back there by the slide machine you would be lulled into slumber by the hot air blown right onto the side of you from the air filter on the Kodak carousel ... You were a goner!
I remember working late at night in the ceramics studio just for fun—I wanted to master that wheel! I would throw and throw and throw again—I would wear the oldest t-shirts and shorts I could find and come back to the dorm—the Grahams across the street—to take a midnight shower with hands and arms and legs covered in clay...
Hours were spent with Fr. James Blaettler, S.J., Dr. Eric Apfelstadt, Dr. Brigid Barton, and professor Kelly Detweiler to shape my degree, organize my studies abroad, and plan for my eventual graduate program in art history (a master’s in Florentine Renaissance art history at Syracuse University) ... All were curious, quirky, genuine, and willing to help ... I have only remarkable memories—although the offices were hot, hot, hot for most of the year and there was so little room for the faculty. The shared spaces, the slide library, everything seemed so thrown together … so forgotten by the rest of the University, like art and art history were afterthought majors …
And not only were we margined off into what was a warehouse and a lecture room that was a spare room—the best part is that from 1989 to 1993 (my years at SCU) there was no major in art history; my diploma reads bachelor of arts in ART still today!
To think now we have this lovely building with the words “Art and Art History” on them—filled with natural light, high ceilings, proper lecture rooms and studio spaces that invites ambitious artists to create and create and create … It is quite incredible …
Last week I was privileged enough to lecture to one of my old SCU professors ... I got to give him guided tour lectures of Florence all week with his family ... The picture is me today and James Blaettler, S.J.—my first academic advisor from the art department at SCU and my first art history instructor at SCU, Fall 1990—when I started with the Ancient to Medieval class …
God bless my prof, my mentors, my old warehouse, my school … and God bless Mr. Dowd for his most gracious gift ...
Christina Mifsud ’93
Mifsud leads tours of the art and architecture of her adopted city of Florence, Italy.
Thwop! Or, How to attach a shopping cart to a wall with clay
This was maybe a month or so right before graduation (1996). Our sculpture class had to clean the old clay (remove dirt and rock bits) and remix it one weekend. It was basically boring but necessary grunt work. Someone decided to throw a handful of clay at the outside wall of the sculpture studio. Thwop! The clay ball flattened and stuck to the wall. We all thought this was pretty funny. Then we scanned that outside area and noticed the random objects that were around: a chair, a mannequin, a Safeway shopping cart, a big satellite dish ... and then a collective mischievous light bulb seemed to turn on for all of us. We grabbed the chair and started covering one of its sides with the clay. Then two of us heaved the chair up about four feet off the ground and pushed it on the wall. Thwop! It stuck. There was a one-second pause of silence ... and then we all started laughing. The chair just looked so empty and lonely up on that wall, so of course we tossed the mannequin on it in a properly seated position. Woo-hoo!! More laughter. Being typical 21- and 22-year-olds, we knew we had to one-up this feat. We started to put clay on the side of the metal shopping cart. This was a little bit tricky because it was very easy for the clay to be pushed through the metal grill. We had to put an excess of clay on the side of the cart that pretty much became a thick solid surface. This made the cart pretty heavy, so four of us were needed to heave it up on the wall. One, two, three! Thwop!! It actually stuck! High fives all around. This is the most motivated we’d been all day. There was only one object left. We all turned our heads to the final piece of our wall sculpture: the satellite dish. This wasn’t one of those little Dish Network satellite dishes ... it was one of those huge metal ones that must’ve had a 10-foot diameter. It was missing its feed horn (that stick-shaped device that points out from the middle) so we knew we could stick it with the concave side facing the wall. We made sure it was lying with the open, concave part facing up. We then hurriedly put clay on the outer portion of the rim. It took all six of us to lift the dish up—we got somewhat of a jogging start towards the wall and then we heaved it up. Thunk!!! After we let it stick up on the wall for a few seconds, we start hooting and cheering. You’d think we just won some major sporting event.
I honestly don’t remember any type of punishment from what we did—I think I heard that Sam Hernandez [a longtime art professor] was kind of mad, but I’m pretty sure he wasn’t upset with us for too long.
Ollie Mamaril ’96
Watercolors and Art Mayhem
Fine art was one of my majors while I was at SCU, and I remember absolutely loving printmaking class. I stayed in the warehouse pretty much all night once carving wood blocks for a floral art print series (which I still have). When we displayed our work at the end of the term, my prints covered an entire wall.
My watercolor teacher, Gerald P. Sullivan, S.J., maintained that you can create every color you need from just five colors in your art box. Still to this day I only use those five colors for watercolor.
I took the first offering of Photoshop classes and can't believe how much I learned and how clunky it was back then!
Michelle Andre ’96
Art major Wei Weng ’01 and I started an art club, Society for the Promotion of Arts and Mayhem, SPAM. We decided that the front door to the art department was very boring, so we painted it ... in the middle of the night ... But with the yellow outside light, we couldn’t really tell the colors. I heard that it was painted back to white after we graduated, but for at least a month the art department had a multicolored front door.
Christina Newell ’02
Life Drawing Lessons
A lot of life has happened since I graduated in ’87, and I think I’ve killed off a few brain cells since. I have one story for you, but not sure it’s fit for publishing …
It’s been a long time since I spent any time in the old art building, and I was way too shy back then to get involved beyond just attending class, but one funny story comes to mind. (Sorry, I don’t have any pictures, but you might be happy about that.) I was in a life drawing class around 1985—might have been Fr. Sullivan’s. We had live, nude models. To a 19-year-old girl from a conservative family known for closing doors for anything not of a modest nature, this alone was something to get used to. Our model on this day was an older, heavyset man, maybe in his 60s. When we got to the long poses, he would get set up, last about 10 minutes or so, and then proceed to fall asleep. All I can say is he must have been having some good dreams because as he fell asleep, let’s just say other parts of his anatomy were waking up! Not sure how we students handled that one in our drawings … like I said, no pictures remain!
So glad you guys are finally getting a new building! I’m going to have to wander over one day and see it!
Jen Norton ’87
Big Lipstick and the Big Screen
I was in Don Fritz’s ceramics class, and we were going around doing a class critique on our sculptures. The assignment was to create a two-in-one sculpture that combined two different, unexpected objects into one piece, one of which you had to bring into class to use as a model. I had chosen a lipstick, which I was also making into a lighthouse. The sculptures were in the final stages, and I had just started glazing my lipstick lighthouse. We went around the room as a group critiquing each piece, and while we were all focused on one and the room was very quiet, with our backs close to the glazing area, we heard a huge smash. Something inside me knew and my stomach dropped, and we turned around to see my lipstick lighthouse in pieces on the floor. Not much to critique there anymore. I might have let out an awkward laugh, but we were all pretty much speechless—even Mr. Fritz was at a loss for words. In the end it all worked out—thankfully, with his help I was able to recreate an even better one in time for the final, and I still have it on display on my porch today.
Holly Hanbury-Brown ’12
Watching classic films on the big art history screen in Don Fritz's fine art classes! His knowledge of film and passion for teaching helped me develop a love and working knowledge of cinema.
James Giacchetti ’11, J.D. ’15
“This is it!”
I don't have any crazy stories from my time in the art building, but I was heartbroken when I found out that the University was investing in a new art building because the old one meant so much to me.
I came to tour Santa Clara when I was a junior in high school. I knew three things about what I wanted for myself in college: I wanted to stay in my home state of California, I wanted to study art and English, and I wanted the campus to feel like home. I dragged my parents to college campuses up and down California waiting for my “this is it” moment. I left each campus sadly shaking my head—until I toured SCU. I felt like I was home from the minute I stepped on campus, and that feeling grew throughout my tour. The inside of the art building wasn’t included as part of the official tour, but my parents and I found our way inside afterward. I was in love. I loved that it was funky and old and paint-spattered, and I loved that I could see myself learning and creating there. It felt just right.
That feeling never went away. As an art major with a painting concentration and a tendency to procrastinate, I spent many long nights in the art building with my brushes, my paint-covered flannel, and my ideas. Sometimes I was by myself, sometimes I dragged a friend or two. I proudly showed my parents around when they came to visit me and see what I was working on. Those rickety walls saw my joyous smile and my tears of frustration. They held my bad paintings during critiques and my best ones for my senior show. The building was a little creepy at night, when it rained, or when the wind blew too hard. It got too hot in September when classes started, and again in the spring when we were all yearning for summer. But it was my building, and I loved spending time there.
I will miss my old friend, but I'm excited to see what the future holds for the arts at SCU. I have no doubt that the new building will be as special as the old one; future Broncos will feel that distinct Santa Clara magic and know that they, too, are home.
Hallie McKnight ’13
Pizza and the Case of the Yellow Prints
The art building was all about pizza. Pizza My Heart on the way to class ... or Pizza My Heart after class. If my day didn’t include pizza, I probably had class in Leavey.
Margo Cleveland ’14
Oh boy, where do I start!? I spent a majority of my collegiate career in that building. Here are a few good ones:
1) Probably the most time I ever spent in this building was for my senior show last year. The three of us participating together spent hours on end making sure everything was perfect and presentable to the public. As much as I hated spending all of these hours in there, it all paid off as soon as we stood there waiting for the people to arrive on the day of our show. Finally being able to show my work to the public was great, but not nearly as great as finally being able to show my work to the majority of my close friends who never knew really what I was capable of. That feeling was one of the more special throughout my entire time at Santa Clara University, and that moment itself was one of pure bliss.
2) I remember freshman year when I was in my first of many black & white photography classes trying to figure out how to print my photos just right. It was my first all-nighter in college and it was spent with four of us in the darkroom, working vigorously to all accomplish the same goal, yet none of us could. As it turned out, the chemical mixtures were off, causing every single photo we tried to print to come out looking bright yellow. As hard as we tried, none of us could figure it out, only to finally find out that it actually was not our fault. That learning experience was one of trial and error, which never resulted in success, but showed me exactly what I was getting myself into being a studio art major.
Can’t wait to see the new building!
Alex Iversen ’15
Home, Sweet New Home
The old art building is an eclectic mix of student imagination. I laughed the first time I walked into the building because it was by far one of the most bizarre and neglected buildings on our otherwise immaculate campus. However, despite its dust and cracked cement floors (and University of Santa Clara sign), it is one of my favorite spots at SCU, only paralleled by the Mission Gardens. The fact that students have physically left their marks through paint stains and graffiti-covered bathroom signs brings an amusing personality to the old building. It’s got character, and as much as I am thrilled to see the completed art building, I hope it has as much personality and pizazz.
To me, art is spontaneous; it is the physical reality of an idea. I like to think of it as a way to show thoughts and emotions so that others can get a glimpse of what you see internally and externally. Everyone has a different perception of reality and it is a blessing that we can all share.
I make art because I feel it in my heart. I take a religious perspective as to why people make art.
The Christian belief is that humans are made in the image of God and He is the ultimate creator—the artist of the universe. If we are made in His image, we have the need to create as well. Why are some people inclined to the visual arts? Because they are gifted in other ways. Mechanical engineers are just as much artists as a painter or sculptor.
Kelby Nardoni ’17
While I love the old art building for its history and character, I’m happy that the new art building is being established. It means so much to create a new facility for the benefit of all art students. Allowing them more resources to pursue their passion is quite honestly exhilarating.
Why do I make art? The same reason I’m studying engineering. Both fields represent problem solvers, designers, and creators, simply with different mediums.
Micah Thomas ’17
I personally am super excited about the new art building because the Department of Art and Art History at SCU isn’t the largest or most popular department, so it doesn’t have as big of a presence as other bigger and more populous departments in the business school or School of Engineering. The fact that we are getting a new building shows that SCU values its art and art history students as much as the others. It also means incredible potentials for our department to grow and develop.
Art is something so complex that most majors will have no idea how to explain what it means to them, but at the same time we are always being asked “Why?” to art and our works. Personally, I think it is the process, from conceiving an idea, to drawing the first marks, to trying to perfect it, to the final product. It is the act of creating that is so powerful. To me making art is kind of like writing a diary. We feel so many emotions every day and have so many thoughts, so sometimes I just need to get it off my chest, or see it on paper in the form of color and lines. Obviously it is clichéd to say that I draw and paint to express myself, but the fun and great thing about art is that when other people see it, they don’t know what you were thinking or what you meant with it. So to me, art is not just to express myself but to stimulate thought in others: to make art that is reflective like a mirror, so people who see it can see not just my thoughts but their own reflected.
Jocelyn Hung ’18
It is such an exciting occasion and honor for Santa Clara to have a new art building. This new art facility will empower students in future generations to create, be innovative, and connect to the world through visual representation.
The process of making art is an expression of my voice. This outlet is not only my way of being true to my personal identity, beliefs, and values, but it is also how I make sense of the world while sharing my ideas.