Since the Winter Break, there have been lot of changes to the Cogswell campus. New walls have gone up, old walls have gone down, classrooms have been swapped, and student artwork has been rearranged. In light of these developments, many students are confused and concerned, and part of the issue may be an absence of strong communication between students and Cogswell administration. Luckily, new information has come to light regarding the many changes, and many questions have been answered that will address the variety of concerns coming from the student body.
The main force behind the changes on campus has been the beautification committee, or the BTF (Beautification Task Force). This committee has existed for a while, but recently started taking more action to present the school in a way that feels more authentic. “They didn’t feel like the campus really represented the quality of work that the students do here,” Vice President of Marketing Eric Rajasalu tells the Chronicle. “I mean, what you guys do here is incredible and it’s a story we’re really focusing on trying to tell.” Students agree that recently, the school doesn’t seem to feel like it represents the work of students, and believe that there is still more work to do. “I just want it to look a little more like a college that’s majored around art,” DAA student Jennifer Posada tells us. “Right now, it looks a little simple and businessy, and that doesn’t look too appealing.” Luckily, the BTF has more plans to show off the work of students around the school. Faculty member Isabell Fearnsby tells the Chronicle, “The flood became like a reset, and now that the campus has been rebuilt, we are getting a clear plan on where and how we can display student work.”
Some of the main changes to Cogswell’s campus have been the rearranging of classroom space. The Illustration Room, Classroom 152, was transformed into a brand new Student Lounge called the “Dragon’s Perch”, complete with comfortable couches and a stack of board games for students to play. What was once the eSports room in the back of the Dragon’s Den is the new ASB and general club meeting room. The large room by the front desk that was once the Sculpture Studio is now home to the Cogswell Dragons eSports team, and the Sculpture Studio is now located in Room 142, which was the previous location of the ASB meeting room. Despite the attempt to make better use of the college’s space, some students have mixed feelings about the switches. Posada, who took Sculpture the previous semester, tells us that “the new room doesn’t make sense and they didn’t do a lot to prepare that classroom in there, so it’s kind of a downgrade for the class.” There are pros and cons to the switches that were made, but Rajasalu ensures us that they will be beneficial in the long run. “Change is never easy, I get it . . . There’s a finite amount of space within the institution. Our goal as a leadership team is to really look forward strategically and say “How do we put the college in the best light as we move forward?”
Cogswell is especially optimistic about the placement of the eSports room closer to the front of the school. “It’s growing like crazy,” says Rajasalu, “and we think it’s important . . . that it becomes this team that students can feel proud of . . . especially given how we were early adopters into eSports” Recently, Alex Holler was hired as a new coach for the eSports team, and this change will hopefully lead the Dragons to victory in future competitions. Overall, Cogswell wants the eSports team to become a more prominent part of the school’s history.
Another major change that took many art students by surprise was the removal of the Community Art Wall. The large blank wall across from Room 111 used to be a free space for students to paint and draw, and it was always filled with artwork. The art would stay up for the semester, then be painted over for a “fresh start.” When asked about the Art Wall, DAA student Kyle Campbell says “Being a college that’s mostly centered around art and just expressing yourself, it was a disappointment to see that go away.” Unfortunately, on multiple occasions, the freedom of the art wall was abused. “There was a lot of profanity,” mentions Sheri Stein, Head of Admissions. ”It was inappropriate.” While freedom of expression is important, Cogswell offers frequent campus tours, so it’s also important for the school to present itself in the best way possible for potential students. Hopefully in the future, Cogswell can dedicate a new wall for Community Art, but for now the Student Lounge has been equipped with large rolls of paper and colorful chalk so students can continue to express their creativity.
Many students have also noticed that since the renovations over Winter Break, a lot of artwork that had previously been up on the walls has been taken down or rearranged. “I’m actually a little sad that they’ve taken down a lot of the sculptures that they once had on display because it was nice to show off student work,” mentions Campbell. The committee is working on putting the artwork back on display, but they also have new ideas on how it will be presented. “Most student work at Cogswell is digital, and students leave here with important digital portfolios, so we are looking to have all student work digitized from here on out,” Fearnsby mentions. In fact, even for physical artwork, it’s important for students to be able to digitize it successfully in order to include it in digital portfolios. Fearnsby and faculty member Emilio Villalba have recognized this need, and are planning to set up new “Physical Work Photographing Stations” around campus where students can effectively digitize their physical illustrations and paintings.
They are also waiting for new submissions from students. “It takes time to get students to submit their work . . . and it takes our time to compile it, put it together, label it, we have documented it so we know who to return it to,” mentions Stein, “but in the end it’s gonna be great . . . and it’ll all be something that we’ve done together, both students, staff, faculty.” Fortunately, the recent Excellence Awards has given the school a lot more to work with in terms of student submissions.
In addition to the many current projects, there are also new things to look forward to in the future. Currently, the lobby of the school is somewhat bare, with a handful of white chairs, but soon this business-like lobby will be transformed into a student art gallery, which Rajasalu says will be “the best of the best” of all of Cogswell’s art displays. In addition, Marketing and Admissions are working to create more unique ways to describe each program to incoming students, with an individual section of wall dedicated to presenting the details of the program as well as work that comes out of them.
The important thing to understand is that change takes time, especially when decisions are being made by a team rather than an individual. Rajasalu tells the Chronicle, “When you’re working with committees and you’re working in a collaborative environment, it takes much longer.” Despite the extended time it takes to complete projects, there are benefits to decisions being made by a committee. There will always be a larger diversity of people and new ideas presented in a committee. “You get so much further with the group,” says Stein.
Fortunately, there are many avenues students can take to inform the school of any concerns they have regarding the recent developments of the campus. The Suggestion boxes have recently been posted again, and you can find them in the Dragon’s Den, near Dean Brittany Bogle’s office, and the garage. “They’re all read and we do take them seriously,” mentions Stein. Not everyone will agree with the decisions made by this committee, but the school always keeps the student’s benefits in mind. “Everything we’re doing . . . has nothing to do with us. It’s in [the students’] best interest,” says Stein. “The only thing that hurts us is if you don’t tell us.” Writing your email address on a suggestion also guarantees a reply from the school to your comments. Students can also send their comments directly to LetUsKnow@cogswell.edu, or contact Mila Zlatanov in Room 190. There may be some uncertainty about the rapid changes of the school, but there is also a lot of excitement about where it will lead students, staff, and Cogswell as an institution.