Last spring was the final semester for the once-vibrant studio art department at Geneseo. It was cut alongside the communicative disorders and sciences and computer science departments in order to compensate for a major deficit in state funding. The physical gaps these departments left behind in the form of vacant classrooms and empty offices in Sturges, South and Brodie halls are obvious. The empty spaces in Brodie are some of the largest. While the college has retained some previous studio art professors under the art history and interdepartmental prefixes, little remains of the department other than vast empty studios and decaying equipment.
In a Lamron article printed in December 2013, Interim President Carol Long discussed the reallocation of space in Brodie, saying that the studios would undergo a program study to determine their best use as early as summer 2014. While she said that the studios might remain vacant in the fall, they could be attributed to new uses soon after. According to Long, any of the deactivated departments could be reinstated in a minimum of five years, should administrative bodies see fit.
Despite funds that are obviously limited, a more equal treatment of artistic disciplines in comparison with scientific disciplines is imperative to Geneseo’s liberal arts mission. Whether or not the studio art department stands a chance at returning in 2019, it is necessary that Brodie be meaningfully renovated as a whole to better accommodate the needs of all art students at Geneseo and to preserve the integrity of the building itself.
Brodie has drawn the attention of architectural historians in recent years, according to professor of art history Lynette Bosch. Edgar Tafel, a noted student of famed architect Frank Lloyd Wright, designed the building. Tafel’s archives are located at Columbia University’s Avery Architectural and Fine Arts Library, which hosted a conference dedicated to his work in January. Brodie Hall is an architectural landmark on the Geneseo campus, yet it has been allowed to fall into disrepair.
Long before this year, the desperate need for maintenance at Brodie Hall was evident. Water damaged ceilings and leaks, rooms entirely filled with displaced clutter and the serious deterioration of the building’s exterior are just some of the flagrant problems it faces.
While other buildings with similar infrastructural difficulties like Sturges, Blake and Jones Halls have been mentioned in plans for renovation or removal in coming years, no plans have been revealed as of yet for Brodie. This is despite the fact that the building still houses the art history, music and theatre, and dance departments as well as two of four campus art galleries—encompassing nearly all of Geneseo’s artistic disciplines.
As major construction projects occur on either side of Brodie at Bailey and Doty Halls, as well as the Integrated Science Center, the architectural disposition of the campus leans cleanly away from the arts in favor of the natural and social sciences. It’s undeniable that the sciences attract more majors than do the arts at Geneseo, but art is vital to the breadth of a liberal arts education. Can Geneseo truly be the excellent liberal arts college we know it to be when arts facilities are so blatantly disregarded?
We should be utilizing Brodie Hall as a hub for student interaction with art regardless of major and as a bold statement of Geneseo’s liberal arts mission. It could be a testament to the future of Geneseo’s art community, with or without a studio art department. Instead, Brodie Hall remains a relic of art long past.