WILLIMANTIC, Conn. — On April 5, 2016, Elsa Núñez, president of Eastern Connecticut State University, led the formal opening of Eastern’s new Fine Arts Instructional Center (FAIC) with an official ribbon-cutting ceremony.
Núñez was joined by Windham Mayor Ernie Eldridge; Yvette Meléndez, vice-chair of the Board of Regents for Higher Education; Mark Ojakian, president of the Connecticut State Colleges and Universities System; Pasquale Salemi, deputy commissioner of the Division of Construction Services in the Connecticut Department of Administrative Services; and other state and local dignitaries, as well as an audience of more than 125 Eastern faculty, students and staff.
Núñez noted the “transformational impact of art” in our lives, characterizing art as a “vehicle for change.” She also thanked the faculty in the Art & Art History and Performing Arts Departments for their patience in waiting for the building, which was delayed a number of times over the years due to budgetary constraints and other campus needs.
Meléndez said, “To have this facility in Willimantic is a gift” to the entire community, while Ojakian said the “amazing building” was “an investment in the future of our students and our state.”
Salemi noted that the $64 million building represented more than 120,000 square feet of instructional, rehearsal and performance space and was the product of hundreds of people — architects, construction workers and others.
Mayor Eldridge, whose sisters and wife attended Eastern, applauded the University’s intention of making events in the new facility available to the local community, and said, “Eastern’s commitment to our community has never wavered. Whatever Eastern builds, builds Willimantic.”
Speaking for William Rawn & Associates, the design architects for the FAIC, Douglas Johnston said, “The visual arts, music and theater have demonstrated a natural collaboration for centuries. This building supports that collaboration on this campus.”
The SLAM Collaborative in Glastonbury, CT, was the new building’s architects of record, having also designed Eastern’s Science Building, which opened in 2008. SLAM President Bob Pulito reflected on the time, effort and emotional investment of the hundreds of people who made the FAIC possible. “I applaud Dr. Núñez for her vision for this building that engages the community and the campus.”
Art History Professor Anne Dawson said that the new facility was being well received by students. “We have seen an immediate impact on our students. They simply couldn’t believe they were actually going to be able to work in this beautiful building. They feel valued and respected. And I see great, renewed energy among my own students. Some tell me this is why they came to Eastern. Another student told me that this building adds a level of professionalism to her college experience that she hadn’t thought possible. We are very grateful to be working inside a work of art.”
David Belles, vocal studies director and music professor, said his students also were in awe of the new arts center. He also quoted one of his students, who said the new facility “reflects how important and vital the arts are considered at Eastern.”
The program concluded with remarks by student Justin Ahern, president of the Student Government Association, who thanked all who made the building possible and said, “My fellow students and I are proud to be ‘Warriors,’ and proud to call Eastern our home.”