Duke Hall

The newly renovated Duke Hall has a lobby area with a large glass wall, which lets in more natural light.

As JMU students returned to school to start the spring semester, the School of Art, Design & Art History unveiled its newly-renovated and state-of-the-art building, Duke Hall.

The new space is already inspiring professors and students of all majors with its spacious rooms, new technology and innovative layout.

“The new classrooms are set up perfectly for the way the instructors need to teach and for the way the students need to learn,” freshman marketing major Grace Paterson, said. Paterson is currently enrolled in GARTH 205 Art HIstory, Prehistory to Renaissance, in Duke.

“People really appreciate how nice this building really is and all the improvements and more space can really make a difference,” Paterson said.

Junior studio art major Allison Nickens said she appreciates having her classes in one building this semester, as opposed to having classes dispersed between Montpelier Hall and the Studio Center on West Grace Street.

“It sucked having everything scattered all over campus,” Nickens said. “It’s really more emulating for, especially art students … it feels a lot more designed than any other building on campus.”

Nickens also said the new building allows in more natural light, which is crucial to the way artists perceive their work.

“[The other buildings] were pretty reliant on fluorescent light,” Nickens said. “Lighting’s kind of everything, especially when it comes to painting. If you paint something in really disgusting light, it’ll look completely different when it’s not in that disgusting light anymore.”

The larger rooms make the classrooms feel more spacious than before renovations, making the building have an all-around more inviting feel.

“The rooms were often too small and cramped, especially for the larger lecture classes in the [other] building,” said William Nadai, a freshman history major.

The budget for the building was $42 million and was largely used to construct resources that allow for more learning opportunities for students.

“I have received great feedback from students of all majors about how warm and welcoming this building is on the inside and how it looks from the outside,” said William Wightman, director of the Duke Hall project.

Wightman, who is also the director of the School of Art, Design & Art History said that the department was able to purchase new technology in sculptures, woodworking and fibers.

“These updates allow better productivity, as well as, upping safety requirements for students,” Wightman said.

The technology will allow students to be more interactive in the classroom. Duke Hall is the first building on campus to have all HD projectors. In addition, updated SMART boards were placed in many classrooms and lecture halls.

Nicker added she’s excited to use the new TC-2 loom, a digital weaving loom that is able to translate pictures into tapestry.

“We [will] have a thing to weave tapestry sort of realistically from pictures,” she said. “It’s crazy s***”

The loom is from Norway and hasn’t arrived at Duke Hall yet. It will be one of the first TC-2 looms to ever be housed in the United States.

Another component to the building is the unique seating. Unlike the old building, there is now a spacious lobby with a variety of chairs and couches where students can catch up on homework or meet with friends before class. There is also a glass wall that goes along with the open-concept theme of the building and showcases an open workspace.

“Design majors cannot believe how nice the public seating is in the building,” Wightman said.

The public seating is the same type of seating that design majors are learning about in their classes. The furniture mixes ’60s style low chairs and tables with barstool-like chairs with intertwining metal backing. This allows for students to directly use and make connections with a physical object while learning about them, Wightman said.

So far, the building consists of sculpture, fiber, woodshop and art history classes. In the summer, ceramics, metals and jewelry, printmaking, student art, painting, drawing and gallery will all added to the building and will be fully functional starting in the fall.

Nadai and Paterson both believe the addition of Duke Hall to JMU’s campus has allowed for a more comfortable and practical atmosphere. Overall, the addition of Duke Hall to JMU’s campus has given students new learning opportunities while providing more space and area for students to work.

Contact Maddie Price at price2mm@dukes.jmu.edu.