Light and beauty that transcend time and space

Light and beauty that transcend time and space

By Patrick Dutcher

Architectural rendering of the Edward M. Dowd Art and Art History Building. Courtesy Form 4
Step inside the planned Edward M. Dowd Art and Art History Building: a place to make art, study its history, and, through virtual-reality technology, explore the whole blessed world.

Start with this simple truth: A world filled with art is a far more enjoyable place. Indeed, it’s a place where creativity and imagination are sparked in the minds and hands and hearts of makers and viewers alike, rippling through lives young and old. And the making and study of art are about to get a new epicenter, thanks to Ed Dowd ’72.

“Art transcends all time and seems like a great cause to me,” Dowd says simply.

The announcement went out Jan. 31 that philanthropist and real-estate investor Dowd has donated $12 million toward the construction of a new art and art history building for the Mission Campus. The Edward M. Dowd Art and Art History Building will encompass more than 45,000 square feet and cost a total of $26 million. Watch for completion by 2016.

So what’s in store?

Ed Dowd ’72. Photo by Charles Barry

Fast-forward two years: You’re standing in front of the newly opened Edward M. Dowd Art and Art History Building in the middle of Franklin Street—which is okay, since cars no longer ply the pavement. The street is now a pedestrian mall. The three-story building before you takes architectural cues from other buildings on the Mission Campus but is striking in its own ways—particularly a dome and terrace on the third floor. To your left is a beautiful sculpture garden. Behind that is a living wall of plants.

More than that, the new building anchors an arts “neighborhood” with the de Saisset Museum, Recital Hall, and Mayer Theatre, making the northwest portion of campus a destination for students and community members interested in fine and performing arts.

From Chihuly to virtual reality

Inside the main entrance is a large sculpture delicately constructed from blown glass by famed artist Dale Chihuly. Adjacent to the lobby is a 1,600-square-foot gallery for senior art shows and exhibits by Santa Clara artists as well as visiting makers. With a capacity of up to 100 attendees, the gallery is ready to host lectures and symposia.

Step back through the lobby and head down the main corridor: A large electronic “canvas” and other screens display works of digital art by students—a level of exposure for computer-created pieces that hasn’t existed on campus before.

Throughout the building, you’ll find instructional studios for sculpture, ceramics, photography and printmaking, painting, and drawing. There are also media-rich classrooms and computer classrooms—one of which is on the first floor in a specially darkened room, between the sculpture studio and the tool shop. Why the darkness? Inside, projection screens are mounted on the walls to offer an experience akin to a virtual room: Here, projected images can create the experience of standing inside St. Peter’s Basilica or Notre Dame Cathedral. We’ve come a long way from slides on a screen.

Together at Last

The second floor provides classroom space as well as offices for faculty members from both studio art and art history, along with room for a visiting artist. This combined space has finally reunited the department—scholars and artists working together.

The third floor is mostly devoted to two-dimensional art, including studio space for printmaking and photography, drawing, and painting. The natural light that illuminates the workspaces is very welcome. Also here on the third floor is the “pantheon” dome and terrace that provide the building’s most distinguishing exterior features. Under the dome are two dedicated computer classrooms for graphic design and digital photography—space greatly needed for popular digital arts classes. The remainder of the pantheon and terrace provide a place for receptions and informal meetings. Stepping onto the terrace, you have a great view of the sculpture garden and Franklin Mall below.

The Whole Picture

Here’s where the tour ends. But before you head back to 2014, consider this: Each year, more than 1,000 students take art and art history classes on the Mission Campus. The majority of these students do not major in art and art history. Instead, they represent the entire spectrum of Santa Clara’s undergraduate population, which is a very good thing. So it just might be that the greatest impact that the Edward M. Dowd Art and Art History Building will have is on students whose life work isn’t as artists.

But then, in what discipline or field of endeavor—or in the rest of our lives, for that matter—is creativity and imagination not necessary?

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