UCA Downtown officially opened its doors at 10 a.m. on Jan. 14 with a ribbon cutting ceremony and public reception.
Students, faculty, staff and community members gathered to celebrate the opening of UCA Downtown—a new off-campus venue providing campus-to-community involvement. UCA’s Outreach Department welcomed the visitors to explore the new venue while listening to live music, eating popcorn, candy and enjoying fresh coffee. The UCA cheer and dance team welcomed the visitors with a cheer.
The University’s Outreach and Art Departments paired up to display student work. President Tom Courtway said showcasing student projects in downtown Conway strengthens the connection between community and campus.
“This is a multi-purpose venue to showcase the many good things at UCA,” Courtway said.
The site will be used to not only show student works, but to be an “outreach source” with soon-to-come classes. In the future, Courtway plans to use the building to hold lectures, book signings and receptions.
Outreach and Community Engagement Associate Vice President Shelly Mehl said during the winter season the venue will offer weekly sewing, Tai Chi, hula- hoop and cake decorating classes.
“We are trying to offer a truly eclectic mix,” Mehl said. “We want to offer the arts, intellectual engagement and fun things for students, faculty and community people.”
The space hit capacity for the ribbon ceremony, but Mehl’s Outreach team—along with Art Department Chairman Dr. Jeff Young—set up a small gallery of artwork to display for the visitors. Young selected artwork from a first-year painting class and a senior’s ceramic project.
“This is the first of many installations,” Mehl said.
Young will be rotating art displays and notifying the community frequently.
Courtway came up with the idea of UCA Downtown years ago after visiting Savannah College of Art and Design and seeing the connection that the college had with the community. Courtway and his outreach team hope that this new project will help inform the community of UCA’s student’s accomplishments and also increase attendance in the Baum Gallery and the Black Box Studio on campus.
Besides the four weekly classes, UCA Downtown will be hosting a Ted Talk on reinventing liberal arts during the opening week.
“It is my hope that this building will start making a statement about the arts,” Courtway said.
The venue will hold a Valentine’s Day couple’s cooking class taught by Chef Jason Knapp. For $150 per couple, each pair will learn to make a dessert and be served a three-course meal while it is cooking.
The building will also be available for community members and UCA affiliates to book small parties.
The venue will be $350 or $250 for half of the building for community members.
Renting the venue will be free for students and staff, but campus organizations will need a faculty advisor present during the event.
This article originally appeared in the Jan. 20, 2016 print edition of The Echo.