In January, 2008 classes and studios for the Gwen Frostic School of Art met for the first time in the newly renovated south bar of Kohrman Hall. Construction of the 88,000 square foot, two-story space started in 2006, but planning for the renovation started ten years earlier.
Kohrman Hall was originally constructed in 1965. It housed technical labs, classrooms, and offices for the College of Applied Sciences. The south bar of the the building was designed for technology labs that used industrial-quality machines and equipment. It supported heavy floor loads and featured high ceilings and wide open, column-free rooms, also known as "high bay" spaces.
At roughly the same time, Sangren Hall was constructed in 1964 and the Department of Art was one of the original occupants. The entire ground floor was designed for art studios - weaving, ceramics, painting, printing, metalsmithing and photography - but it soon became apparent that environmental quality standards of the day were not adequate to maintain a safe and comfortable teaching environment. Over the years various improvements were made but the facilities remained less than ideal.
By the late 1980s the Department of Art was actively seeking new facilities for the art studios. Throughout the 90s there was a very real chance of losing academic accreditation if the situation did not change.
It had also become clear that the industrial-style labs in Kohrman Hall no longer served the needs of the College of Engineering and Applied Sciences. In 1997 the university received approval to plan for relocating the engineering labs and renovating the classrooms. In 1998 this was modified to encompass planning an entirely new building on the Parkview Campus. In 2003 the college moved to the Parkview Campus, vacating about half of Kohrman Hall, including the entire south bar.
The vacated high-bay industrial labs were ideal facilities for art studios. With renovation complete, South Kohrman Hall is now home to studios and workshops for painting, photography, printmaking, digital imaging, sculpture, ceramics, art education, foundations, and metalsmithing. Designed by SmithGroup Inc. of Detroit, the same group of architects who designed the Richmond Center, the renovation also includes flexible, multi-media classrooms and critique spaces, open studios for students, and sophisticated mechanical systems for maintaining a healthy environment and providing safe disposal of art wastes. A bridge connection links South Kohrman's studios and classrooms with the galleries of the Richmond Center for Visual Arts.