UNCG’s new arts dorm includes practice rooms
GREENSBORO, N.C. (AP) — Renovation plans for Cone Hall at UNC-Greensboro were like music to Lemar Martin’s ears.
The dorm would become the university’s arts-based residence hall. It would house many students in the school’s College of Visual and Performing Arts, offering amenities to aid their education.
Those plans inspired Martin, a junior music education major from Greensboro, to move back on campus this semester and into Cone.
“I was hooked instantly, and it has not disappointed,” Martin, 20, said at the hall’s grand opening celebration last week.
Cone Hall houses about 350 students. About 60 percent major or minor in visual art, dance, music and theater.
Most residents are first-year students. The ninth floor at the top houses those in upper classes, primarily arts majors, said Tim Johnson, UNCG’s executive director of housing and residence life.
Some residents study in other fields but retain an interest in the arts.
Students named the building’s art community Studio 91 for 1891, the year the school was established.
Martin praised the creation of its eight music practice rooms — most housing pianos — as well as a music composition/computer lab, an art studio, and a dance studio with mirrors and a sprung floor, which absorbs shocks and gives it a softer feel.
With just a short walk, residents reach the Music Building on West Market Street and the university’s theaters on Tate Street.
It’s a few minutes farther on foot to classroom buildings for visual arts and dance students.
But while the Music Building and its practice rooms close at midnight, Cone’s practice rooms stay open 24/7.
Residents don’t have to walk elsewhere to practice in bad weather or at night.
“If it’s late at night and I need to practice, I can run down here in my pajamas,” Martin said.
UNCG offers housing geared to special interests in other dorms.
Global Village, for example, houses those studying language.
Spartan Wellness is designed for first-year students interested in healthy habits.
Cone Hall is likely the largest themed housing, although the Lloyd International Honors College comes close in size, Johnson said.
Arts conservatories probably have campus housing similar to Cone. But it’s less common at other universities.
“I don’t know that we invented anything that doesn’t perhaps exist,” said Lawrence Jenkens, associate dean of the College of Visual and Performing Arts. “But it seemed the right thing for us at this moment.”
Jenkens credits the arts-dorm initiative to Peter Alexander, dean of the College of Visual and Performing Arts.
Plans to renovate Cone Hall were already in the works. In January 2017, college leaders took the arts-focus idea to Johnson.
Their student advisory committee wanted to get to know colleagues in other arts disciplines — difficult to do with the college’s programs dispersed around campus.
For guidance, college leaders turned to a focus group of visual and performing arts students.
Dancers sought a studio with a sprung floor.
On the second floor, Johnson said, “We took 11 rooms that would have been student rooms and turned them into a whole practice wing.”
Although that meant losing room-rent revenue, “Our commitment is to student experience and student development,” Johnson said.
Students suggested a space with easels for visual artists.
They also suggested a music composition/computer lab. That now houses four workstations with composing software.
“I would never have thought that music and theater students would need a computer lab,” Johnson said. “But every freshman music major has to do a music composition class that they learn to do on the computer, and the only place on campus they can do their homework is in a music-computer lab that’s in the music school. Software is too big and expensive to put on a laptop.”
Yophi Bost, a choral music education major from Concord, was among those in the focus group. She suggested the “91” portion of the Studio 91 name for Cone’s arts community.
After the $12.5 million renovation was complete, students moved in just before the semester started.
Aside from the arts amenities, it’s a traditional dorm, with two students per room and communal bathrooms on hallways.
Bost, a junior, had already made plans to move off campus before Cone Hall opened.
“But a lot of my friends are here now, so I’m kind of like, man, I should have lived here,” Bost said.
Even before classes started, first-year dance majors Hope Stallings and Andrew Quackenbush had practiced in the first-floor dance studio.
It’s more convenient than walking for four to eight minutes to dance facilities in the Coleman Building and competing for practice space there.
“If I have any time to let my mind free from homework from my general education classes, I can come down and dance any time I want,” said Quackenbush, who came to UNCG from south Atlanta.
Stallings, who hails from Little Washington, N.C., and her roommate initially were placed in another dorm. They asked to be moved to Cone.
Jenkens and Alicia Dugas, who directs recruitment and undergraduate admissions for the College of Visual and Performing Arts, view Studio 91 as a recruitment and retention tool. The dorm filled quickly, Jenkens said.
An advisor for visual and performing arts students maintains an office there.
The concept also creates a network for students, where they can create and collaborate across disciplines.
“Hopefully they will form some lifelong bonds and begin to understand that they are a community of artists, not just a community of dancers or musicians,” Jenkens said.
Martin, the music education major, enjoys that community.
“It makes for a super high-energy, super fun, enjoyable environment where everybody is so expressive and creative,” Martin said.
Information from: News & Record, http://www.news-record.com