Last night at our Council meeting, we were informed that the website for 311 West Main Street was up and running, so when I arrived home from the meeting I decided to check it out (http://311arts.org/). As I perused the site and the designs for the building (http://311arts.org/311-building-plans/), I was intrigued to see that the Fine Arts Studios were placed in the basement and that Staff Offices were placed on the third floor with arguably the best natural light in the building streaming in through massive windows facing west.
As a painter myself and as any painter who takes his or her craft seriously, painting in natural light is a necessity. Who designed these renovated plans for 311 West Main Street? Fine Arts Studios in the basement with no natural light and Staff Offices in the lightest, airiest location of the building? Does this make any sense? Unfortunately, this backwards design is representative and symbolic of the entire approach to this project. As I have written and debated ad nauseam, this project lacks the artists to drive it. Instead, it is being driven by novices and bureaucrats at the expense of the tax payer. This is yet another major design flaw in the building. No artist worth his or her brushes is going to want to paint in a basement.
Reading from the June 14, 2010 Reporter article about the flaws in the arts center, then Council President Matt West described how the soundproof rooms for music instruction were anything but soundproof. (Here is a link to the article: http://www.thereporteronline.com/article/20100614/NEWS/306149991). The point of this expose on the arts center was to show its deficiencies related to the artists themselves, and to emphasize that its design came from the architects without artistic input and from what looked good on paper. This is the problem when an idea comes NOT from the people who are going to use the facility but rather from those novices who THINK their ideas will be good for the artists.
Imagine taking a group of serious painters and showing them through the beautiful, sunlit administrative offices on the third floor and then pointing them to the basement where their inspiration can come from florescent bulbs. In the words of Yogi Berra, “It’s deja vu all over again.”