AT NEWLY REFURBISHED JAMES HOUSE, ‘FORDS CAN FIND THEIR INNER ARTISTS
Walking through James House, the former Safety and Security building—now refurbished as a student-governed home for the arts—you can see the possibilities. Like the ghosts of things yet to come, you can picture painters reveling in the abundant natural light of the lounge area, ceramics enthusiasts knee-deep in clay in one of the studios, theater mavens busily stitching costumes in the corner office, literary types sharing their work at the dining room table. When it opens at the end of March, James House will fill a campus void not only for the arts-inclined, but also for anyone seeking a neutral gathering space.
The house’s potential had been suggested several years ago by Haverford’s Committee on the Arts, but it was only last spring that Student Council Vice-Presidents Kathleen Abels ’09 and Rachel Van Tosh ’09 made formal arrangements with Ron Tola, Director of Facilities Management, to acquire the property. “There had been a lot of talk about a student-run arts space, and people saw this house as a solution,” says Van Tosh.
Last summer, Facilities Management funded the house’s renovations, which included new tiles for the floor of one office and the area in front of the lounge fireplace; the removal of doors between rooms to transform two separate spaces into one large area; and the installation of shelves and lighting. Van Tosh and Abels were also given money to buy furniture at local thrift shops.
As it stands now, the house has a roomy lounge with a fireplace (boarded-up, but it may be home to a mosaic sometime in the near future); meeting space for the musical theater group Greasepaint Productions and the Haverford Review literary magazine; studio space for ceramics, with a kiln, wheels and other necessary equipment; and numerous closets for art supplies and storage. There’s also an all-purpose room located in another wing of the house (where a garage might once have been), which may be used for meditation.
From now on, all James House needs and programs will be funded by Student Council and overseen by the House Board, appointed in November. The Board will be in charge of procuring additional furniture and equipment and will handle community outreach, encouraging student organizations both arts and non-arts to use the lounge for meetings.
James House will officially open for business Saturday, March 31, with a wine-and-cheese celebration from 7-9 p.m. The Board hopes to host at least two more events this semester. “The plan for the future is to have a theme night every month,” says Board member Jen Hare ’09. The house will also be one of the few buildings on campus to be cardkey-accessible 24 hours a day.
James House will not be restricted to serious art majors only. It will be, in Kathleen Abels’ words, a “chill” kind of space where students can play around with different forms of art: collage, mosaic, even Play-Doh sculpture. There will also be board games in the lounge.
“The arts are often thought of as either academic—being a fine arts major—or extracurricular—being really committed to a specialized club,” says Hare. “This house will be accessible to everyone. It won’t be like taking a drawing class; people can doodle, hang out with their friends. It will be as welcoming as possible.”
— Brenna McBrid