UI School of Art and Design seeking $111 million for expansion

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CHAMPAIGN — The big ticket in the University of Illinois’ fiscal year 2025 budget request? The School of Art and Design’s proposal for an expansion to its building, clocking in at $111 million.

Leading reasons for the proposed Thinking and Learning addition include facility consolidation, as visual-arts students, faculty and staff are currently spread among 13 buildings.

Kevin Hamilton, dean of the College of Fine and Applied Arts, said the expansion would support continuing growth of the school and create space for community members to practice art.

“Imagine that people in our central Illinois community who engage in the arts could do so in new and exciting ways,” Hamilton said. “The vision for the building is to be a lifelong learning center for art.”

The $111 million request — which makes up 35 percent of the UI’s portion of the capital budget request — would cover both this addition and renovations to the original Art and Design building on the northeast corner of Fourth Street and Peabody Drive, which has not seen a major overhaul since its construction in the late ’50s.

It would also be supplemented by over $14 million in “other” funds from the university.

The addition would include a multi-level atrium and “maker spaces” where school tours or university students can work on art projects.

It would expand the Art and Design building toward the Siebel Center for Design, which Hamilton said would make the atrium a “hub” bringing together Art and Design, Siebel and the Krannert Art Museum.

“We’re planning to both expand the College of Art and Design and renew interest in the art museum,” Hamilton said.

This would also accommodate an increasing number of students, he said, as the majors included under the Art and Design umbrella are getting more and more popular.

For faculty members within the college, this expansion would represent an investment in the arts, beyond just an upgrade to their working environment.

“This project is more than a structural upgrade; it’s an investment in the future of design education,” said Carlos Aguiar, an assistant professor of industrial design. “It will not only enhance our capabilities, but also ensure UIUC continues to be a leader in nurturing creative talent.”

Eric Benson, chair of graphic design and design for responsible innovation, held similar sentiments.

“Nationally, the arts are severely underfunded, so I’m happy to see the state of Illinois leading the way on supporting the arts and especially our students at UIUC,” Benson said.

Aguiar said that he supports the proposed expansion for several reasons, including increased proximity to Siebel and revamping the “outdated and inefficient” building to match evolving needs of the design community.

“The proposed renovation and expansion will transform it into a dynamic space that fosters multidisciplinary collaboration and innovation,” Aguiar said.

Lynne Dearborn, industrial design program chair and associate director of design, said current facilities are just not sufficient for everything the students need to do.

For example, she said that the design studios themselves are not big enough because they were built when there were significantly fewer students making use of them.

“The Thinking and Learning addition will provide the students and faculty with whom I work facilities that will better support their creative processes and projects,” Dearborn said. “It will give them access to classroom, work, and exhibition spaces and equipment that will nurture new innovative possibilities for individuals and collective efforts.”

The funds for the Thinking and Learning expansion are included in the FY25 budget request for the entire UI System, which will be voted on at the board of trustees’ meeting on Thursday.

The Urbana-Champaign campus’s portion of the capital budget is $316.5 million.

For the entire UI System, capital and operating budget requests for FY25 come out to over $1.6 billion.

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