Editor's note: This is one in a series of stories on the new Baker University Center.
Nov. 16, 2006
By George Mauzy
Creating an environment where students, faculty and staff can celebrate diversity has been a top priority for Ohio University. That commitment is renewed and rejuvenated in the new Baker University Center, which unites diverse groups and programs from all over campus.
A theme of diversity emerges throughout the building — from the artwork at each entrance to the food served to the programs housed there, including the Multicultural Center; the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender Programs Center; International Student and Faculty Services; and the Women's Center.
Artwork walks visitors down 'A Street Called Home'
Community is central to the artwork of Columbus-based artist Aminah Brenda Lynn Robinson. It's fitting, then, that scenes created by this prominent African-American artist greet visitors to the new Baker University Center, which soon will be the most-shared public space on campus.
Laid permanently into the atrium floor, the artwork -- images that led to a book titled "A Street Called Home" -- depicts scenes from Poindexter Village, one of the country's first federally funded housing developments. This is where Robinson grew up in the 1940s and '50s, and her colorful artwork reflects the vibrant street life of the neighborhood and the people who inhabited it.
"It could be any street anywhere in the world," Robinson says of the piece. "I hope (Ohio University students) see something in the work and go back to their own community and think about the street they call home."
Robinson, whose work has been shown in museums and galleries across the country, was a 2004 recipient of the prestigious MacArthur Foundation Fellows Program grant (also known as a "genius grant").
Her floor mosaic comes to Ohio University thanks to the Ohio Percent for Art Program. The program requires that 1 percent of the total appropriation for a public building that costs $4 million or more goes to artwork.
"Accessibility to the arts is important, and having a public work like Aminah's sends a message that we value the arts and the message they bring to our public spaces," says Charles McWeeny, dean of the College of Fine Arts and a member of the Percent for Art Committee that selected Robinson for the Baker commission. "Public art creates an environment where students and faculty can be intellectually engaged while they move through the space."
McWeeny says Robinson's work is especially fitting for the new university center.
"Aminah's work is about community and the importance of community in our culture," he says. "She sees the center as a central place where people come together to form a community."
For more information about Robinson's artwork, visit the Columbus Museum of Art Web page.
Writer: Mary Reed
Artwork: Collection of the Wexner Center for the Arts, Ohio State University © Aminah Brenda Lynn Robinson
The second-floor Multicultural Center will expand upon its predecessor in Lindley Hall with a larger art gallery, reception area and multipurpose room; an enhanced computer lab, lounge and conference room; and a new resource library and kitchen space.
"In the beginning there will a transition period for students getting used to the new Multicultural Center being in the new university center and not in Lindley Hall, but I'm confident they will quickly learn to appreciate the new location for its many added benefits," says Linda Daniels, director of Multicultural Programs. "The new location will also raise the level of awareness of the center and encourage new people to visit and make themselves comfortable, regardless of their ethnicity."
The multipurpose room, which is more than twice as large as the current room, is equipped with the latest technology and is an ideal place to host large gatherings and events. The computer room, with nine workstations, will continue to bear the name of alumna and donor Patricia Ackerman, a former university trustee and retired educator.
With more than 300 books available for checkout, the Multicultural Center library will provide additional educational resources for the Ohio University community. Other books will be donated from various friends of the center, such as Francine Childs, a professor emerita in African American Studies.
Additional space for the Office of Multicultural Programs is another major benefit of the new location. For the first time in several years, staff members will have enough room to work in the same area, creating camaraderie among staff and students. Currently, the office's graduate assistants and PACE students are in a work space away from full-time staff.
International Student and Faculty Services
International Student and Faculty Services, relocating from Scott Quad to the third floor of the university center, will have three offices, a large reception area and a larger work area for graduate students who work for the office. To make all campus community members feel welcome, the lobby will be decorated in an international theme.
The ISFS office will benefit from the proximity of its new office to the new International Student Union office, found on the same floor. "Being closer to the International Student Union office and more students in general will be very convenient and is most certainly a welcome change," says Alan Boyd, director of International Student and Faculty Services.
Another change Boyd looks forward to: the technological capabilities in the new office space. "It will be a great advantage to have the new technology on hand to give PowerPoint presentations and have computer access throughout the building," Boyd says.
The Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender Programs Center
Also on the third floor of the center, the new LGBT Programs Center features administrative office space, lounge area, resource library and a computer workstation.
"The new space will give students more room to interact," Director of Campus Life Anne Lombard says. "It will provide an opportunity for more synergy with the students, and overall is simply more inviting."
The resource library in the LGBT center will stock many books, tapes and magazines for people looking to keep informed with current topics, facts and opinions. The books and tapes will be available for checkout. A lounge in the LGBT Center will serve many functions, including meetings and events.
"The new LGBT Center will be more visible because of its location in the Baker University Center," says Mickey Hart, assistant director of Campus Life for LGBT Programs. "I’m hopeful for some combined programming between the LGBT Center and the other diversity programs. Being in close proximity to the other diversity centers and offices is conducive to increased collaboration."
With the opening of the new Baker University Center, the university welcomes a new center: the Ohio University Women's Center. As part of its mission, the fourth-floor center will strive to "serve as a focal point for education, awareness and advocacy about women, gender and diversity among faculty, staff and students at Ohio University and beyond."
Associate Provost for Program Implementation Charlene Smith says an Ohio University Women's Center is the culmination of many people's ideas over an extended period of time.
The center will consist of administrative office space for the soon-to-be-hired director, an area for library holdings pertaining to women and a lounge area for casual conversations. The lounge also features tables and chairs that can be used for study or dining. It is likely that the center’s lounge will be the venue for a planned women's book club.
"I envision the center being a resource that brings women from the campus together with women from the community," Smith says. "The practical use possibilities of the center are very exciting. Eventually it will link with other women’s centers around the nation and collaborate on ideas, research and programs."
Smith anticipates the center will effectively use the several alcoves and a conference room located nearby. She expects the center to be a campus gathering place for discussions about gender, leadership, safety, diversity and equity. The center will collaborate with the Women’s Studies Program on programming.
George Mauzy is a media specialist with University Communications and Marketing.