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UT Announces Construction of “Transformative” Building for Fine and Performing Arts

Published: April 25, 2019

Calling it a project that will transform the creative arts both for University of Tampa students and the Tampa community, UT officials announced today that the University will soon begin construction on a new, four-story, 90,000-square-foot building on campus that will provide spaces for UT’s fine and performing arts.

Ferman Center for the Arts
The Ferman Center for the Arts building, named in honor of the Ferman family – longtime supporters of the University – will include a recital hall, black box theater, classrooms, practice rooms, art and dance studios, faculty and administrative offices, student study spaces and much more.

The Ferman Center for the Arts building, named in honor of the Ferman family – longtime supporters of the University – will include a recital hall, black box theater, classrooms, practice rooms, art and dance studios, faculty and administrative offices, student study spaces and much more.

The central focus of the building includes a multi-use lobby space that provides gallery walls for displaying art work, which leads into another area for music and dance performances. Above this elevated performance area is a combination study and gallery. The two are connected by an artistic, circular stair which features a performance stage mid-landing that is suitable for musical performances, readings or addresses to a crowd.

Other building features include:

  • A 200-seat, acoustically-tuned theatre, ideal for recitals and other musical performances, dance programs, film screenings and speeches;
  • Two sound insulated music classrooms, and six general education classrooms;
  • Twelve music practice rooms, music teaching studios and instrument storage;
  • Three recording studios with a professional level control room;
  • A black box theater designed for flexible stage and audience interaction, including rehearsal spaces;
  • A large painting studio and 20 small advanced painting collaborative project studios;
  • A courtyard with casting/sand pit area and furnaces for casting metal or ceramic art;
  • Sculpture studio and wood/metal fabrication shop, including a plasma cutter;
  • The Center for Speech;
  • Student study and meeting spaces throughout; and, 
  • Many faculty offices as well as faculty lounges and part-time faculty office and study spaces. 

For comparison’s sake, the four-story Ferman Center for the Arts is slightly larger than the six-story Graduate and Health Studies building, which opened in Fall 2018 and is currently the University’s largest academic building. The architecture will feature glass, wood, red-brick and steel to complement other campus buildings, including the iconic Plant Hall. The interior will be a contemporary, functional, dynamic space that exudes creativity and innovation.

Ferman Center for the Arts
A groundbreaking for the new building was held on April 25. The building is set to be complete by Fall 2020.

UT President Ron Vaughn said that UT has never had a building that has adequately housed the creative talent level that has been present at UT for decades. As such, this building will be transformative. “UT’s reputation is rapidly escalating nationally and internationally,” Vaughn said. “Continuing to advance our fine and performing arts programs is very much part of this effort. This building will elevate this whole set of college programs as well as further enhance UT’s reputation.”

The location of the building is at the southwest corner of North Boulevard and Spaulding Drive. It is currently the site of the Edison Building, which will be demolished beginning Tuesday, May 7, to make room for construction. Construction will begin thereafter, and the building is set to be complete by Fall 2020.

Provost David Stern said that this building will be a perfect complement to UT’s mission of developing the whole person.

“At UT the fine and performing arts are integrated into the broader education of all students,” Stern said. “The creative and experiential aspects of the arts therefore enhance and enrich UT’s core undergraduate education.”

David Gudelunas, dean of the College of Arts and Letters, said the Ferman Center will help attract the best students and faculty to UT and will be a place where they can learn, create, innovate and continue to break artistic boundaries.

“By bringing together the performing and visual arts that are currently scattered around campus in inherited spaces, the stunning new facility will facilitate collaboration, creative synergies and cross-disciplinary teamwork,” Gudelunas said. “This is so important in not just artistic fields, but the myriad of professional contexts where our students end up after graduation.”

Gudelunas added that the Ferman Center will also solidify our place as a major cultural contributor to the exciting downtown Tampa arts community.

UT’s College of Arts and Letters offers a rich portfolio of about 50 majors, minors, concentrations and certificate programs in the broad areas of art and design, communication, English and writing, languages and linguistics, music, philosophy and religion, speech, theatre, film, animation and new media, as well as dance. The college also annually offers several hundred fine arts programs which are key contributions to the life of the campus, the student experience and to the broader cultural life of Tampa. The college’s community impact is expected to magnify as the surrounding community also further develops and is more engaged with UT’s College of Arts and Letters.

Ferman Center for the Arts
The location of the Ferman Center for the Arts is at the southwest corner of North Boulevard and Spaulding Drive. It is currently the site of the Edison Building, where so many UT dancers have learned from great professors, including retired professor Susan Taylor Lennon, who encouraged her students to “do it with love.” Photo by @mddesigns16

Many of the spaces that will be featured in the Ferman Center for the Arts are currently housed in the campus’ former Florida State Fair exhibit buildings, which are almost 100 years old and are gradually failing.

The lead building donors, Jim and Celia Ferman and the Ferman family, are inextricably linked to Tampa and The University of Tampa. The family has been involved with UT for 70 years – more than three-fourths of UT’s existence. The family is already the namesake of a conference room in the Vaughn Center and of the current campus music building, which the new building will replace. Martha Ferman, who passed in 2011, helped found The Chiselers. Her late husband, James L. Ferman Sr., served as chair of UT’s Board of Trustees, as did their son, Jim L. Ferman Jr., who with his wife, Celia, have also long been involved with the University.

The lead architect on the project is Eric Kreher of Kreher Wehling Jacquette Architects Inc., and EWI Construction has been named to build the new structure. This team also designed and constructed the Fitness and Recreation Center on campus, which opened in 2016.

The Ferman Center for the Arts follows a number of new or completely renovated spaces built on campus since 2000 that function for primarily academic or student purposes. It follows the Sykes College of Business (2000), the Vaughn Center (2001), Marine Science Field Station (2002), R.K. Bailey Art Studios (2003), Edison Building (2003), Ferman Music Center (2005), Falk Theatre (2005), Scarfone/Hartley Gallery (2007), Cass Science and Communication Building (2008), Science Annex (2010), Sykes Chapel and Center for Faith and Values (2010), Nursing Skills Lab (2011), MacKechnie Academic Building (2011), Health Sciences and Human Performance Building (2012), Schoomaker ROTC and Athletics Building (2013), North Walker Hall (2013), East Walker Hall (2013), West Walker Hall (2014), Daly Innovation and Collaboration Building (2015), the Kennedy/Boulevard Academic Building (2016) the Graduate and Health Studies Building (2018) and the Southard Family Building (2019). Of course, numerous other residence halls, athletic facilities, parking garages and administrative buildings have also been completed in recent years.

In alignment with UT’s commitment to environmental stewardship, the new building will be designed and constructed to be a candidate for Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) certification by the U.S. Green Building Council. If successful, it will be UT’s eighth LEED-certified building. The new building exterior will also be enhanced by appropriate landscaping.