Artist's rendering of the Ferman Center for the Arts at the University of Tampa. <span class='image-credits'>University of Tampa</span>

UT breaks ground on transformative arts center

Right now, the University of Tampa’s arts programs and students are scattered across multiple buildings on campus. Late next year, that will change in a dramatic way.

A new 90,000-square-foot, four-story center will bring together performing and fine arts programs under one roof and continue to enhance the university’s reputation nationally and internationally. Slated to open in the Fall of 2020, the Ferman Center for the Arts will feature the same red brick, glass, wood and steel architectural design of most campus buildings, including the historic Plant Hall.

David Gudelunas, dean of the College of Arts and Letters, says the new building will be an asset for the university and the larger community.

“The new building will be a public-facing building that will welcome guests from the community to see art exhibits and take in performances, recitals, screenings, lectures and other events that will happen in several different spaces,” Gudelunas says. “I think this will be a very happening place with a lot of activity and excitement to draw lovers of arts and culture. The building will showcase the talented students and faculty that study in the College of Arts and Letters. We routinely host visiting artists and performers who come to campus to teach master classes and interact with our students and that will certainly happen in the new building. Of course, the building also has an impact on the arts in Tampa Bay by serving as an incubator space for our students who will be the next great generation of artists in Tampa.”

Artist spaces will include a recital hall, black box theater, classrooms, practice rooms, and art and dance studios. A lobby with gallery walls for artwork will lead to an area for music and dance performances. A circular staircase with a mid-landing performance space will lead to upstairs a combination study and gallery.


A 200-seat, acoustically tuned theater will host recitals, musical performances, dance programs, film screenings, and speeches. For students, there will also be two sound insulated music classrooms, 12 music practice rooms, music teaching studios, and instrument storage space, three recording studios with a professional-grade control room, a large painting studio and 20 smaller collaborative project studios, a sculpture studio and wood/metal fabrication shop, a courtyard with a casting and sand pit area and furnaces for casting metal or ceramic art, general classrooms and study spaces.


Gudelunas expects that bringing all this creativity together in one place will lead to collaboration.

 

“Right now, we have various visual and performing arts programs in various buildings around campus,” he says. “A lot of our theatre classes take place inside the David Falk Theatre and our dance classes happen on the other side of North Boulevard in the Edison building. In the new building, dancers and theatre performers will be on the same floor and their musician colleagues just a floor above them. The students who may be painting scenery are just a few steps away as well. This makes a lot of sense if you think about the various elements of a musical theatre production. I’m confident this building will help students better collaborate and find synergies between their disciplines and critically learn and practice team building skills that are so essential for professional success.”

 

The new state-of-the art facility will help boost the expansion of a growing arts program. UT is launching a major in Design Studies this Fall and growing programs in Art Therapy and Museum Studies. There is also a new concentration in Music Technology and the musical theatre program draws students from across the country.

 

“UT’s reputation is rapidly escalating nationally and internationally,” University President Ron Vaughn says in a news release. “Continuing to advance our fine and performing arts programs is very much part of this effort. This building will elevate this whole set of college programs as well as further enhance UT’s reputation.”

The Ferman Center is named for lead building donors Celia and Jim Ferman and their family, which has a more than 70-year history with the university that includes financial support for programs and facilities and service on the Board of Trustees. The lead architect on the project is Eric Kreher of KWJ Architects Inc. (Kreher Wehling Jacquette). EWI Construction is the general contractor. That same team designed and built the new Fitness and Recreation Center that opened in 2016.

With the Ferman Center for the Arts, the University of Tampa has renovated or built more than 20 buildings that serve primarily academic or student purposes since 2000.

Read more articles by Christopher Curry.

Chris Curry is a freelance writer living in Clearwater. Chris spent more than 15 years as a newspaper reporter, primarily in Ocala and Gainesville, before moving back home to the Tampa Bay Area. He enjoys our local music scene, great weather and the wealth of outdoor festivals.
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