GLASS GRACE

Santa Clara’s Art and Art History Department receives a well-deserved new home—a work of art in and of itself.

GLASS GRACE
Dale Chihuly's Persian and Horn Chandelier welcomes guests to the lobby of the Edward M. Dowd Art and Art History Building. View full image. Photo by Joanne Lee

So long to the Art and Art History Building of old. Your first welcome into the new building—blown glass.

Kelly Detweiler stands in the luminous rotunda lobby of the new Edward M. Dowd Art and Art History Building on the north edge of the Mission Campus, gazing at the orange-red organic forms and golden tendrils of the Dale Chihuly sculpture suspended there in space.

“It reminds me of underwater life, the movement and the grace of it,” says Detweiler, the painter, sculptor, and longtime SCU art professor who’s been involved for a decade in planning the beautiful and technologically up-to-the minute new home for art and art history, which opens for classes this fall.

It was Chihuly, the celebrated Seattle glass master, whose work inspired the love of art in Ed Dowd ’72. That passion motivated Dowd, a prominent South Bay real estate developer, to contribute $12 million to the construction of the $26 million building that bears his name. And he purchased the big Chihuly for the entryway.

Works by other artists will appear in a sculpture garden on the sun-splashed patio to the west, where receptions will be held, and plants growing on the metal structure screening the garage will make a living wall.

The 43,000+-square-foot building features three floors designed to support the creation and study of art.

So long to the Art and Art History Building of old. Your first welcome into the new building—blown glass.

Kelly Detweiler stands in the luminous rotunda lobby of the new Edward M. Dowd Art and Art History Building on the north edge of the Mission Campus, gazing at the orange-red organic forms and golden tendrils of the Dale Chihuly sculpture suspended there in space.

“It reminds me of underwater life, the movement and the grace of it,” says Detweiler, the painter, sculptor, and longtime SCU art professor who’s been involved for a decade in planning the beautiful and technologically up-to-the minute new home for art and art history, which opens for classes this fall.

It was Chihuly, the celebrated Seattle glass master, whose work inspired the love of art in Ed Dowd ’72. That passion motivated Dowd, a prominent South Bay real estate developer, to contribute $12 million to the construction of the $26 million building that bears his name. And he purchased the big Chihuly for the entryway.

 

Works by other artists will appear in a sculpture garden on the sun-splashed patio to the west, where receptions will be held, and plants growing on the metal structure screening the garage will make a living wall.

At 43,000 square feet, the three-story structure is twice the size of the crowded old art facilities on the southwest side of campus, and for the first time it brings the studio art and art history departments together in a well-organized space conducive to the making and study of art in its myriad forms, from etching and welded steel to graphic design and digital photography. Designed by San Francisco’s Form4 Architecture, the building gracefully merges the Mission Revival style of the traditional campus structures—adapted here with a Pantheon-like dome covered in red Spanish tile and lightly embellished with Saturn-like steel rings—with the contemporary materials and feel of the building’s airy interior.

“We wanted a more functional teaching environment but also a reunification of art and art history,” Detweiler says. The old art quarters were charmingly funky but utterly lacking in feng shui. Faculty had to go through each other’s classes to get to their offices. They called the place the Art and Art History Animal Sanctuary “because over the years we had rats, we had mice, we had squirrels. It had a lot of character but problems. We didn’t want to lose that character and community.”

 

There are spacious new studios for sculpture, painting, ceramics, and printing; stylish art history classrooms with giant flat-screen monitors on the walls and smaller ones at shared workstations; a new photography studio and darkroom; and a new ground-floor gallery that, at 1,600 square feet, is double the size of the hard-to-find old one.

The inaugural show will feature art by SCU faculty, as well as works recently acquired for the de Saisset Museum with the involvement of art history students. Also on view will be paintings by Bosnian-born New York artist Amer Kobaslija, who’ll be here for a week teaching.

Jesse Hamlin is a Bay Area journalist who wrote about music and art as a staff writer at the San Francisco Chronicle, where he still writes a weekly arts column, and covers a range of stories for various print and online publications.

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