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Hartford Art School Embarks on a New Era

Posted 04/18/2007

Standing outside the new Renée Samuels Center are Bob and Renée Samuels (third and fourth from left); their sons, Steven Samuels (far left) and Michael Samuels (far right); and President Walter Harrison.

The Hartford Art School entered a new era on Tuesday with the dedication of the Renée Samuels Center, a striking new facility that brings together arts and technology.

"The Renée Samuels Center provides the Art School with a vigorous and exciting new dimension that appropriately reflects the creativity and energy that has for long been the hallmark of this school, and for which it has become justifiably famous," said Peter Eio, chairman of the Board of Regents.

The Renée Samuels Center is a 15,000-square-foot, two-story addition to the art school that will allow students to explore the creative potential of digital technology in a space that promotes interaction among a variety of artistic disciplines. It will house two growing programs of the Hartford Art School - photography and media arts - and will provide expanded and renovated space for the painting and drawing department, the printmaking department, and the foundation studies program.

Guests gathered in the distinctive central atrium of the new facility for Tuesday's dedication ceremony. Seated in the front row are (l-r) Dianne Harrison, Bob Samuels, and Renée Samuels.

The center is named for Renée Samuels, a longtime Hartford Art School supporter, trustee and University regent. Renée Samuels and her husband, Bob Samuels, made the lead gift for the project.

On Tuesday guests packed the center's distinctive central atrium, known as "Koopman Commons," for the dedication ceremony, as students watched from large openings on the floor above.

President Walter Harrison began his remarks with a moment of silence in memory of the victims of Monday's shootings at Virginia Tech. The new Renée Samuels Center, with its promise of a vibrant arts education for generations of students, provides a sense of hope for the future as we come to grips with the tragic events of the present, Harrison said.

Hartford Art School Dean Power Boothe said that the new facility "allows us to work in new technology, while still remaining grounded in the core artistic disciplines." Anthony Crisafulli, a senior photography major, provided a perfect example of that concept - Crisafulli said he is thrilled that the new center will embrace digital photography while actually expanding facilities for traditional film photography.

Hartford Art School Dean Power Boothe speaks at Tuesday's dedication.

Speaker after speaker at Tuesday's dedication praised the efforts of a wide range of people, many of them volunteers, in bringing the dream of a modern new facility for the Art School to fruition. In addition to Harrison, Boothe, and Renée and Bob Samuels, much of the credit went to Louise McCormick, president of the Art School Board of Trustees and a University regent; Margaret Corie Darby, a regent and art school trustee who chaired the fundraising campaign for the project; and Herman Fonteyne, a regent and art school trustee who chaired the building committee for the project.

Also praised for their efforts on the project were executives of The S/L/A/M Collaborative, the firm that designed and built the architecturally striking facility; and University staff members Tom Bradley, Arosha Jayawickrema, Norm Young, and Chris Dupuis.