New home sets stage for more Fine Arts growth

Over the summer, the College of Fine Arts and Production slowly made the move to its new space in the old Colangelo College of Business building. (Photo by David Kadlubowski)

By Lana Sweeten-Shults
GCU News Bureau

On most days, there’s no business like show business for the College of Fine Arts and Production. But there’s also the business of moving the department into the building that used to house the Colangelo College of Business.

Assistant Costume Designer Sarah Levinson unpacks items in the new costume shop in the Fine Arts building on Thursday. (Photo by David Kadlubowski)

The move consolidates most of the COFAP programs at Grand Canyon University. Previously, the college had space in several facilities: the Colter business complex on the east side of campus, which many of the music and dance faculty called home; the south end of Ethington Theatre, which included some theatre faculty offices; and the second floor of the Media Arts Complex, which housed the costume shop.

“It's the first time for all of us to be under one roof together," longtime COFAP Dean Claude Pensis said.

Film professor Lisa Tervo on the first day of classes said, “Most of our offices were in Colter. But having so many kids come through here, it’s a much different feel,” she said. “I feel like we’re at the heart of campus. It makes it more exciting.”

Boxes guarded by a stuffed animal prop from the design studio wait to be unpacked earlier this summer. (Photo by David Kadlubowski)

The COFAP outlook was very different a little more than a decade ago. In 2006, because of the University’s financial struggles at the time, music, theatre and other fine arts programs were eliminated. President Brian Mueller brought them back after he arrived in 2008, and the college has blossomed ever since.

In addition to offering theatre, music and dance, COFAP has incorporated into its academic roster digital film, digital design and advertising graphic design, which now encompass about half of the college's 1,000-plus students, Pensis said.  

Facility services helps the College of Fine Arts and Production make the move into its new home in the old Colangelo College of Business building. (Photo by David Kadlubowski)

Pensis sees COFAP’s move as a sign of the continuing bright future for the college, which had 100 students when he arrived at GCU in 1982.

“This is going to be a great growth opportunity for all our degrees,” he said.

The new space in the old CCOB facility features music practice rooms, a new recital and music classroom space, digital design classrooms, an improved black box space, a drawing and sculpture room, and an area for photography.

“All of the classrooms we had in Colter are in our new building in a new and improved fashion,” Pensis said. “We have a dedicated black box theatre lab, and all of our acting classes are there as well as the directing classes.”

Costume designer Nola Yergen and Assistant Costume Designer Sarah Levinson, who were queens of the castle on the top floor of the Media Arts Complex, are thrilled with their new costume construction and storage space. They also are happy to be in the same building as the rest of their colleagues instead of carrying their costume greatness across campus.

“It’s going to be a GREAT space. We’re incredibly excited about the move,” Yergen said.

A facilities worker unloads fabric from the old COFAP costume shop Thursday morning at the Media Arts Center as dress forms and mannequins fill the courtyard. (Photo by Lana Sweeten-Shults)

Previously, the logistics of transporting costumes from the Media Arts Complex across the Promenade to Ethington Theatre could be challenging. Now Yergen and Levinson are right next door to Ethington.

What was part of the former cadaver lab – the cadaver lab was housed in the business college for a time – now will be where a washer, dryer and sinks will await the next costume cleaning.

While much of the college is consolidated into the new space, not all of COFAP will make the move.

Some classes will remain where they have been. The two dance studios and digital film will stay on the first floor of Saguaro Hall. The Thundering Heard Pep Band will continue to make music in the Media Arts Complex, though not for long -- there are plans to demolish that facility to make way for a new five-story Admissions and Student Advisement Building. The band will be making its new home in the under-construction, 135,000-square-foot Canyon Activities Center.

Students study in the Media Arts Center courtyard while workers load dress forms, sewing machines, ironing boards and more into a moving truck. (Photo by Lana Sweeten-Shults)

Assistant Dean Bill Symington, meanwhile, will continue to have his office at Ethington, where a small office is being turned into a design lab.

As for the Colangelo College of Business, it is occupying a new 150,348-square-foot, L-shaped structure at the corner of Colter Street and 30th Drive. 

Sophomore worship ministry major Joseph Vaught, who was waiting to start his private voice lesson in the new COFAP building on the first day of class, said he's happy the Fine Arts department is in a more centralized space. 

"It's a lot nicer," Vaught said. "It just feels nice and fresh. It makes you want to be here."

Pensis and the rest of his colleagues, some of whom just wrapped up the first play of the season, “Ring Round the Moon,” are settling into their new space. The costume shop, meanwhile, got the green light to transport about five truckloads of costumes, shoes, fabric, props and the like last week.

Sophomore music education major Uri Ruiz spends time in one of the practice rooms in the new College of Fine Arts and Production building. (Photo by Lana Sweeten-Shults)

The COFAP dean, who is celebrating his 36th anniversary at the University, didn’t quite know where to start when it came to packing up his office in Ethington over the summer. With shelves upon shelves of theatre books and a desk covered with layer upon layer of scripts and other paperwork, the office had been Pensis’ GCU home since 2010.

The move was a big one for him. And it also was a big move for the rest of the college, whose faculty, after all the boxes are unpacked and things put in their proper place, are getting back to business – dance, music, digital film, graphic design, show business and all.

Contact GCU senior writer Lana Sweeten-Shults at [email protected] or at 602-639-7901.

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