CBU's oldest building replaced by top-modern school of the arts

The Rosa Deal School of the Arts at Christian Brothers University will welcome its first students in the coming weeks, with January 23 scheduled as the facility’s official opening.

The new 45,000 square-foot facility, which sits in the middle of the CBU campus, will help the school to expand its academic offerings in the fine arts, literary arts, digital arts and other disciplines.
 
The new school is the result of a generous gift from the estate of Dr. Rose “Rosa” Deal, CBU’s first female faculty member. Deal taught at CBU from 1961 until retiring in 1994, at which time she was named professor emerita of the University’s School of the Arts. She passed away in 2012 at the age of 88.
 
Her gift was the largest single gift in CBU's history, according ANF Architect president Bill Ferguson. ANF handled the project’s design, and Grinder, Taber & Grinder handled the construction work.
 
A couple of years passed with efforts to save the previous building, Kenrick Hall, which was built in 1939. The initial idea was to modernize the building, but it had not been designed to handle seismic activity or air conditioning and many of the rooms had few electrical outlets. Renovating the old building proved to be most costly than a tear down and rebuild.
 
“Replacing it was $3 million cheaper to take it down and build another,” said Ferguson, who advocated in favor of saving Kenrick Hall and modernizing it.
 
“When we started designing the new building, we wanted the side that faced East Parkway to fit in with the other buildings,” said Ferguson. “It also needed to be more exciting than those, so as you walk around the new building the façade changes. It morphs as you walk around the building.”
 
The back side of the facility features a giant three-story glass curtain wall with a long linear stairs leading to landing areas on each floor.


 
“We wanted to be able to see people going up and down the stairs,” said Ferguson. “We also did some fun things with lighting, particularly at night with RED/LEDs with white light that can be tuned, like we did at the Levitt-Shell with lights can be programed to have different colors.”
 
Intermediate landings include small alcoves where students can slip in and access USB ports and plugs for their devices.
 
The challenge of dealing with the previous building’s basement area, which was located in a basin area and resulted in musty conditions from water logging after heavy thunderstorms, was remedied by filling in the basin and developing a small bluff to build the new school upon. The end result is a higher elevation for the school and some nicer views of the sky outside.
 
The new school will be home to departments for behavioral science, education, history and political science, literature and languages, religion and philosophy, and visual and performing arts. It will also have a theater and green room.

Read more articles by Michael Waddell.

Michael Waddell is a native Memphian who returned to Memphis several years ago after working for nearly a decade in San Diego and St. Petersburg, Fla., as a writer, editor and graphic designer. His work over the past few years has been featured in The Memphis Daily News, Memphis Bioworks Magazine, Memphis Crossroads, the New York Daily News and the New York Post. Contact Michael.
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