WALLA WALLA, Wash. —The Fouts Center Open House on Saturday drew between 400 and 500 hundred curious visitors, who admired the facility, visited with faculty and staff and watched art students at work. 

"It was very successful," said Angela Torretta, assistant director of alumni events, "and it was fantastic to see so many Whitman and Walla Walla community members and students' family members (on campus for Family Weekend)." Toretta cited volunteer efforts of faculty, staff and alumni as well as student participants for making the event successful.

Matt Haugen, KVEW TV reporter, covered the open house and ran a segment on the station's 11 p.m. news. A synopsis of his report is available on the station’s web site.

The 38,000 square-foot building, named after alumna Elizabeth Fouts van Oppen ’40, provides space for the college’s burgeoning visual arts program, which includes painting, sculpting, drawing, digital arts and welding. Generous teaching spaces as well as exhibition space also are included.

Students and staff, who have been using the building since it opened for fall classes, are very pleased with their new surroundings, said Charles Timm-Ballard, associate professor of art. The lighting, quality of work space and generous window space are most often mentioned when people first enter the center, he said.

Timm-Ballard, who was instrumental in the building’s creation, said that one of the unique features of the building is its conception as display space. “The faculty has taken advantage of the opportunity to spontaneously display art work, not only for critique purposes, but as a way to further the general aesthetic dialogue in the department.”

Thomas Hacker Architects, said Timm-Ballard, captured the building as an entity where creatity occurs. "It is obvious that this is a teaching tool, and as a teaching tool it is already clear that it is making an impression on the work the students are doing.”

“I couldn’t be happier with the new ways we are able to work,” agreed Michelle Acuff, assistant professor of art. “The building and its spaces have injected a new energy into student processes and projects. The students really linger in the studios, working and thinking."

Acuff’s work is displayed on the east wall of the Fouts Center: A large (8-foot-long) orange steel chain connects two different but proximally located squares, from which hangs a smaller-than-life white resin replica of Michelangelo’s famous David statue. “The work functions for me on many levels,” said Acuff, “the first of which is of a compelling and playful nature.” In addition to its appearance, she said, the piece addresses her concerns as a teacher with the historical trajectory of sculpture through the centuries: from the idealized Classical nude figure to the Modern “fetishization” of industrial material and process, to contemporary preoccupations with commoditization and discourses of authorship.

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Contact: Lenel Parish, Whitman College News Service, (509) 527-5156
parishlj@whitman.edu