by Hani Yassine
The Lance – Arts & Culture Writer
Imagine yourself still deciding which university you want to apply to. You’re browsing online to see which one catches your eye, and after some period you find one which is seemingly brimming with promise. It’s not just the promise of obtaining a higher education and a better understanding of the field at hand, but it’s the opportunity to do so in a brand new, state of the art facility located in the heart of the city. Almost sounding too good to be true, you apply and eagerly await the new year.
But then mere weeks before it begins, you’re told the building is not only unfinished but that in the meantime you have to obtain your education in a facility well past its prime, strikingly similar to a bait and switch.
This is not the scenario for many, but it at least resembles the experience of 25-year old Jonathan Gagnon. A first-year student in the School of Creative Arts’ Visual Arts program, Gagnon applied to the university under the clear impression that the program he applied to will have its roots planted in the newly renovated Armouries building in downtown Windsor. But with the sites delay roughly two weeks prior to the start of classes, he can’t help but feel he’s been dealt an uneven hand.
“I came here to do art and I thought it would be great to be downtown and be around everything, have places to go. Now I’m eating at McDonald’s every day and hanging out in this dungeon,” Gagnon said.
Gagnon is among several first-year students with similar sentiments towards the delay. However, it arguably resonates with every individual currently involved in SoCA, students and faculty alike. The development of the new school has become something of SoCA lore. The announcement of the project dates back several years where students had been constantly promised the newly minted facility’s arrival, which had only been met with constant delays. But this year seemed to be the one where the promise was truly coming to fruition. Construction finally went underway over the summer to transform the Armouries into the program’s new home. Faculty and staff were packing up their offices, equipment was ready to be mobilized, and garage sales were held to sell equipment which was no longer needed.
According to SoCA program director Vincent Georgie, who took the position July 1, there was the full expectation of class beginning in the new campus grounds.
“That was the plan we were given, and we were working towards that until we received notification that there was truly no way it could happen,” Georgie said.
Georgie largely attributes the delay of the project to its overall complexity. He notes the plans for the building, as well as the red tape that needs to be hurdled through in developing a heritage site, is essentially a mighty order to make.
“The Armouries being a heritage building and having to refurbish it, and refurbishing it to something truly world class is a tall task,” Georgie said.
Following the initial reaction, Georgie says no time was wasted in resetting both schools to their initial form as much as possible. Staff, faculty and students began unpacking, materials which had been sold were being sought after and equipment was being reinstalled so they were ready for classes. The issue had been mitigated, albeit with some consequence.
Fourth-year student Emily Conloy, who’s also president of the Creative Arts Student Society’s visual arts sector, says the foundry which is used to make sculptures is currently out of commission in the Label building. The acid room in the printmaking studio, which she had planned to use for a project, is also unavailable. While she was disappointed in the delay like others, she found the sudden timing of the announcement to amplify the situation.
“It wouldn’t have been an issue had they just given us more notice,” Conloy said. “They should have known at that point that the building wouldn’t have been done in time.”
Over at the School of Music, however, they largely remained unaffected. Most equipment sold during the garage sale were expendable, and since students own their instruments, not much had to be unpacked in terms of equipment. The announcement of the delay still had been displeasing, but CASS music president Niklas Pizzolitto says the professors have greatly mitigated the situation to ensure the students present are still getting the education they paid for, despite the circumstances.
“Whether we’re in a 50-year old building or a brand new building downtown, their level of teaching is going to be the same, so the level of education you’re getting is going to be the same,” Pizzolitto said.
While it likely won’t be at full completion at this time, students are now expected to start attending the classes in the new building by the winter semester. Whether students generally believe that or not remains to be seen, but the continued construction of the project is assurance that it will one day be truly ready to open its doors.
Almost like an art piece in itself, it will be ready when it’s ready, for it’s a process that ultimately cannot be rushed.
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