The College of Fine Arts puts on six theater productions, countless student art exhibits, choir concerts, band and orchestra concerts and more annually. While students perfect their skills and continually improve, the Warren M. Lee Center for Fine Arts (FA) facility continues to sink.
The FA was built on the north side of campus in 1973 on top of a swamp that Dean Larry Schou said an older staff remembers duck hunting at.
Water issues have plagued the FA since its construction. Schou said the roof has leaked for nearly 30 years in various places. Facilities management has attempted to stop the leaking, but whenever they think they fix it, the leak moves to a different location due to the slope of the roof, Schou said.
“We just try to be patient because we know facilities management is working on it,” Schou said.
Facilities management, over the last two fiscal school years, has completed 16 minor repairs to the FA. Those repairs include security camera installation, new doors and new lights in the main entrance.
These repairs, while a step in the right direction, are not enough. Raimondo Genna, chair of the theater department, said there are critical, big issues that need to be addressed.
“These are upgrades that we need, not what we want… need,” Genna said. “When we are trying to recruit students, they can see the resources that we have and it’s hard to convince them that this is a great program based off the facilities.”
Renovations at the Knutson Theater will start in May 2020. Genna said they are still unsure what exactly will be done to the theater.
He said his hope is to bring the theater and the rest of the FA up to today’s standards. Knutson Theatre, built before the American with Disabilities Act, is not up to code or wheelchair accessible.
“We are hoping to get new seats for the audience because the seats are original and if you sit on them, you can tell,” Genna said. “(We also need a) new stage, new wiring system throughout the entire building so we are caught up with current technologies in the industry.”
Schou submitted a proposal for the renovation of the Knutson Theatre earlier this week to USD President Sheila Gestring. The proposed idea estimates the renovations to cost around $3.1 million.
In May 2021, the Colton Recital Hall will begin its renovations.
Genna said approval for the renovations took a long time, but he appreciates Gestring making an effort in their renovation needs.
Katie Brust, a sophomore fine arts and biology double major, said having the renovation set for the theater helps showcase that USD is a well rounded school.
“We’re moving towards bettering the entire university and just showing that we are a very well rounded university,” Brust said. “I just think that it’s a really cool time to be here and to see all this and to know that for students coming in, whether they’re in academics, athletics, arts, it’s all going to be better for them in the future.”
While it’s a step, Brust still would like to see more studio spaces available and better lighting in the studios.
The gallery lighting systems are set to be renovated during 2020 fiscal year. One of the biggest challenges completing these renovations is funding, both Schou and Genna said.
“Once upon a time, public universities operating funding came from the state. Since the 1980s they have been moving away from that and they want the schools to be more self-supported,” Genna said. “Now the money you bring is in how you make things happen. Now it is up to us to bring in donors and get the proper funds.”
Despite the faulty facility, Genna said morale is as high as ever in the FA.
“We do our best to make sure our department is like a family,” Genna said. “We try to support people work and we recognize that we are all in this together.”