Emison undergoes major facelift on south end

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There often comes a moment during a student's first visit to campus when he or she says, "I can see myself here."

According to administrators, the old Office of Admission building fails to capture that wow factor, and so the university plans to relocate the office to a more imposing location – Emison Museum.

"Our goal of this project is to create a sense of arrival that students feel, ‘I can see myself spending four years here,'" said David Harvey, vice president for academic affairs.

During the first phase of the project, the Office of Admission staff will move into the first floor of Emison, where three galleries were formerly located. The receptionist, on-campus coordinator and on-campus programmer will move into the large room and two smaller galleries, while the galleries of Asian art and anthropology will remain in their current locations on the east side. The faculty offices of Asian and religious studies on the second floor will be moved at a later time.

On the south side of the building, a new set of stairs will replace the old patio. The construction flips Emison's main entrance to the south, toward campus.

"That is actually restoring the building as what it looks like about twenty years ago," Harvey said.

Emison Museum originally served as the university library following its construction in 1908 and was converted into an art building with a new south entrance in 1958. When the Peeler Art Center opened in 2002, Emison lost its function as a classroom for teaching studio art and art history. Three years later, Emison was renovated and expanded as the university's "teaching museum."

"It [Emison] is a very impressive building," said Dan Meyer, Vice President for Admissions and Financial Aid. "It sets the right tone. When you walk out the back you're right on East College, and you really get a sense right away that, ‘Wow, I've arrived at a great place.' That's probably the best first impression you can make."

Construction will be completed in October of this year. The project was funded exclusively by gifts from external donors.

Over the past six years, the Emison Museum has served as the home for the university's permanent art collection of more than 2,000 pieces, including regional art from the 19th and 20th centuries, as well as Asian art and anthropological artifacts.

But for the last three years those collections have been out of sight of the public.

Harvey said the university had no security guard monitoring the building and as a consequence, the collections have been closed for viewing except by individuals with private arrangements.

He said with the Office of Admission there and with the presence of more people, those galleries will be opened more frequently.

Michael Mackenzie, chair of the art and art history departments agreed that the galleries have been underutilized.

"I don't know how much time students have spent there, but I'm sure that students are not going to be starved of contemporary arts in Peeler," he said.

Junior Vishal Khandelwal, an art history major, said he believes artwork at Peeler draws more attention, but he also believes the reopened galleries in Emison will attract a great deal of interest.

"Contemporary art is more eye-catching, exciting and cutting edge, but the historical artifacts are also worth viewing," Khandelwal said.

Apelles Johnson, a sophomore accustomed to meeting his Chinese professors and classmates on the second floor of Emison said he hopes the building is better utilized after the construction.

"A new change to the downstairs entrance wouldn't bother me that much," he said. "In fact, I would like to see it used for something instead of being a huge blocked-off mystery."

In order to enhance the function of the permanent collections, the university will display some artwork in Emison and exhibit other collections in Peeler. The contents of two exhibits displayed in Peeler this fall semester will come from the permanent collections.

During the second phase of the Emison project, the offices upstairs will be relocated to the third floor of Harrison and the academic affairs offices will move into the current Office of Admission building. The second floor of Emison will be renovated to accommodate the offices for admission staff.

"By roughly this time of next year, the admission office will be completely out of the building and relocated in Emison," Harvey said.