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Larrabee Art Center’s Move Makes Way for Modern New Career Center
CHESTERTOWN, MD, January 12, 2015—Visitors to Washington College will notice a major change in the heart of campus starting this week. The former boiler plant, where the Constance Stuart Larrabee Center for the Arts was housed before moving last fall into an airy new space at 100 Gibson Avenue, has been renovated into a thoroughly modern Career Development Center.
Once the Career Services staff completes its move from its old digs on the first floor of Caroline House residence hall, Washington College students will have a spacious, modern setting for career counseling, mock interviews, panel discussions and other activities that help them shape resumés and land internships and jobs. One new advantage: Two interview rooms are equipped with video cameras to capture training footage that students and their career counselors can use to assess and polish their delivery.
Director of Career Services Jim Allison sees the new space, which is located between Bunting Hall and the Johnson Fitness Center, as a game changer for the College. “This space is easier to access because it is so centrally located, and the design is contemporary, functional and attractive,” he says. “I expect it to be a place students will want to visit and our staff will be there to be help them be productive. We’ll be proud to host recruiters, alums, and other guests to meet with our students about career choices. And we have enough space in the multi-purpose area to host special presentations.”
“This makes a strong statement about the importance of career development at Washington College,” says interim president Jay Griswold. “This more accessible location will be a convenient stop for Admissions tours and a much easier place for students to visit between classes.”
Guests enter the building through a small lounge/sitting area then step into a front room with a reception area and the two interview rooms. The back half of the building holds a central multi-purpose area flanked by five offices and a small kitchen. The design’s contemporary palette of grays and wood tones gets visual punch from doors painted bright orange.
In addition to the entire Career Development staff, Assistant Dean for Academic Initiatives Andrea Lange will have an office in the newly renovated building. As part of the Office of the Provost and Dean, Lange helps students apply for experiential learning opportunities such as internships and counsels pre-law students on career paths and law-school applications.
The renovation was brought to life by many of the professionals who collaborated on the stylish, state-of-the-art Visitors Center in the Casey Academic Center, which opened last fall. The team included architects from the Baltimore firm Schamu Machowki + Patterson, Baltimore-based interior designer Jay Jenkins of Jenkins Baer Associates, and Chestertown-based builder Jay Yerkes. Local mason J.T. Thompson and his crew restored the building’s brick façade, and Chester River Landscaping redefined the exterior courtyard and Kirwan Meditation Garden with paths of crushed oyster shells lined with boxwoods.
It was also builder Yerkes who worked closely with the College’s Director of Physical Plant, Reid Raudenbush, last summer to create a new space for what is now the Constance Stuart Larrabee Studio Arts Center. The move was first sparked by the College’s desire to correct moisture problems in the building’s basement and to create a more expansive, light-filled studio-arts space. Once the studio art space was relocated, the former boiler plant became the perfect spot to renovate as the new Career Development center.
Working on an extremely tight deadline over the summer of 2014, Yerkes and Raudenbush, in collaboration with art professors Heather Harvey and Benjamin Bellas, converted an all-male residence hall at 100 Gibson Avenue into the new Larrabee Studio Arts Center. The building, which faces Washington Avenue just north of Greenwood Avenue, contains two large studio spaces and a digital imaging lab.
“It was more important to keep Constance Stuart Larrabee’s name affiliated with the art studio—and the creativity that happens there—rather than the power-plant building itself,” says Gary Grant, the College’s Vice President for Advancement, of the decision to remove the artist’s name from the old boiler plant. “She was an important and valuable friend of the arts and arts students at Washington College.” A comprehensive new signage system for the campus, slated for installation this spring, will include a sign identifying the Larrabee Studio Arts Center. In addition, a tribute to the photographer will be installed in the entry area.
A native of England, who grew up in Pretoria, South Africa, Larrabee was a renowned photographer who moved to Chestertown in 1949 and remained here until her death at age 85 in 2000. She was most celebrated for her images of the dwindling tribes of South Africa, World War II photography of South African and American forces fighting in Europe, and – later in her career – tranquil photographs of her Eastern Shore surroundings.
Students and professors are pleased with the new studio art spaces that will bear Larrabee’s name. “The amount of natural light and the open, flexible layout of the two classrooms are more conducive to contemporary art practices,” assistant professor Heather Harvey told the student newspaper, The Elm, soon after the new space opened. “The two new classrooms are an invaluable improvement that increases the amount of useable floor and wall space for students to create their projects.” She added that the current building is considered “a temporary fix,” because a brand new building for studio arts is included in the College’s long-range construction plan.