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College of Fine Arts facilities renewal strategy aims to transform OHIO’s arts education and its impact on students, surrounding region

The Ohio University Board of Trustees recently approved a resolution at their June meetings for the design phase of the College of Fine Arts facilities renewal strategy. This strategy, which includes a combination of renovation, relocation and new construction, is intended to reimagine arts education at OHIO and enable the arts to have a greater impact across the campus, community and surrounding region.

As the largest professional arts presenter and producer in Appalachian Ohio, the College of Fine Arts serves as both an educational institution and has unique responsibilities as an arts presenter and producer to serve its community.

“There are limited performing arts spaces in this region, especially at this scale, so this new arts center isn’t just for us but for the region,” Dean of the College of Fine Arts Matthew Shaftel said. “Aside from the performances from our students and professional organizations, this new space can also offer a location for performers that are brought in through the performing arts and concert series, in addition to other visiting artists and community organizations.”

The new strategy will include a new vibrant arts center, the Patton Arts Center, that will feature a professional 400-seat multi-purpose theater that can be used for theater performances, music concerts, dance concerts and film showings; a large performance and rehearsal space that will open to the outdoors allowing performances to be inside and out; a lobby dedicated to connection and serve as both an inviting space for OHIO and community members during performances and an active student space throughout the day with art gallery and exhibition space for students and artists to show off their work in a more accessible space.

Patton Arts Center Lobby rendering
A rendering of what the lobby of the new Patton Arts Center may look like.

“What is really special about this new facility is how it can bridge the gap for performance space in this region,” Shaftel added. “By including an indoor/outdoor performance space, we can offer more opportunities to engage with the community while looking at new, innovative programming that provides almost an amphitheater-like experience. Currently, the Athena Cinema is offering programming on the top of the Athens parking garage which is selling out and extremely popular among the community. This type of space positions us to not only bring in new audiences but new opportunities in general.”

In addition to the new space, the strategy also includes a renovation plan for Seigfred Hall which will turn the massive, five-floor facility into multi-use space serving the School of Art + Design, the School of Theater, the School of Film and the entire college as a whole. The strategy as a whole has several other smaller projects in the comprehensive approach inclusive of investments in Glidden, Putnam, Sculpture Studio, Ridges and green space.

Seigfred lobby renderings
A rendering of what the new Seigfred Lobby may look like.

“The arts intersect in various ways and the future of the arts is interdisciplinary by nature,” Shaftel said. “We have the opportunity to generate a shared space that allows for prop masters in the School of Theater to be in the same building working on their craft as sculptors in the School of Art + Design. By including all these programs on the same green and in the same multi-use buildings, the opportunity for collaboration becomes greater.”

Learn More About the Capital Project

North Green map rendering
The arts will all come together on North Green, allowing for more collaboration and interdisciplinary work among students. This map provides a look at what the new north green will look like.

The College of Fine Arts is home to six schools: Film, Music, Theater, Dance, Interdisciplinary Art and Art + Design, all of which are currently housed in multiple buildings across the Athens campus. In addition, the college supports six professional arts organizations, including four that rely on these same spaces such as Tantrum Theater. In the last six years, the student population of the college has continued to increase every year and with that sustained growth, several new programs like the undergraduate musical theater program, the undergraduate film program, the graduate arts administration program and the graduate arts in health program to name a few, have also been introduced within the college.

“As the College of Fine Arts expands in both students and programs, we need facilities that elevate the work being done within each school and across the college as a whole to ensure experiential learning opportunities are being maximized. The hope is that this arts-centric green serves as a regional spot to be educated in art and through art.”

This renewal strategy project, which has a projected cost of $94.2 million with $50 million allocated from the Violet Patton estate, is the result of years of strategizing, hundreds of meetings, workshops, and site visits with more than 250 stakeholders involved, closely analyzing the current college’s spaces and needs. This strategy additionally focuses on ensuring that space is used to the highest and best use and that investments are placed to optimize our assets.

Although there have been significant donations by Patton designated to amplify the College of Fine Arts facilities, continued fundraising is necessary to meet this planned vision and to continue to invest in the college’s facilities. In addition to individual donations, the college is also seeking grant funding.

To learn more about fundraising opportunities to support this project, please contact Jonathan Renard, senior director of Development, at or by phone at 740-593-0188.

The complete recap of OHIO's Board of Trustees June 15 and 16 meetings is available online at OHIO News

June 16, 2023
Staff reports