New Steel Plant Boasts Modern Appeal, but Limited in Art Space, Students Say

After two years of hard work and patience, members of the Marist community came together Friday evening for the grand opening of the Steel Plant Studios--the new home to many fashion and art classrooms.

The Winter Garden, or the courtyard-esque cafe area of the new building, was filled to the brim with spectators, ranging from students and faculty to board members, alumni, and politicians. Marist President David Yellen kicked off the ceremony by thanking some of the people and organizations who brought the Steel Plant building to fruition. He praised Robert A.M. Stern Architects, the architecture firm that designed the Steel Plant.

Stern has been responsible for several important Marist structures, including the entry gateways, the tunnel beneath Route 9, and Hancock Center. The new Steel Plant Studios building is designed to match these other buildings. It boasts an industrial-modern style, and incorporates brick, steel, polished concrete, terrazzo, corrugated metal, and tile.

President Yellen lauded the new technology in Steel Plant, and emphasized how it will allow students to explore new creative avenues.

“This building will add to our student success in many ways, better preparing them for internships and ways in which fashion, art, and technology intersect,” Yellen said.

Fashion students gather in the Steel Plant’s open rooms. Photo by Mary Ceniza ‘19.

Fashion students gather in the Steel Plant’s open rooms. Photo by Mary Ceniza ‘19.

The modern facade, decorative foliage, and working space drew widespread applause from students,  many of whom were more than pleased to abandon the antiquated classrooms of the old Steel Plant, located at 51 Fulton Street (though this building will still house some art classrooms).   

“It’s a lot bigger, more modern,” said Morgan Prenetta, senior art student. “The whole environment definitely generates a lot more creativity because of the vibe it gives off. The old Steel Plant was very industrial, which made it feel kind of cold. This [building] generates a positive feeling for people to work in.”

The Steel Plant did not come without its share of expenses. Yellen noted in his speech that Marist received a $3 million grant from the State of New York to complete the project.

Following President Yellen’s remarks, Dr. Lyn Lepre, the Dean of the School of Communication and the Arts, detailed the features of the new Steel Plant Studios. Lepre noted that the building is equipped with a laser cutter, an engraver, and a body scanner

“This is more than just a beautiful building for the faculty, staff and students,” said Dr. Lepre. “It’s a tremendous opportunity.”

The administration seemed most excited about the abundance of space that Steel Plant offers. Lepre noted that Marist’s Creative Resource Center (CRC) did not have adequate room in its old home. Lepre believes that the increase in space will “foster creativity and inspire students.”

Ed Smith, Marist’s Art Gallery Director, is also looking forward to seeing what the students can accomplish with this new space.

“Space is everything, and the ability to sit there and focus is really important,” Ed Smith said. Smith believes the students’ work is paramount, and that Marist is setting its students up for success by giving them more space to work.

But while administrators emphasized expansion as the Steel Plant’s crown jewel, some art students felt the space was largely limited to fashion, with the art rooms compartmentalized in the back corner of the first floor.

“She’s a beauty but she needs some editing here and there on the space issues..” said Maggie Alleva, senior art student.

“..specifically art classroom space [for capping],” her friend, Gabby Ruiz, joined in.

“We’re in the corner,” Ruiz said, adding that she hopes to see improvements to the digital art classrooms.

Alleva and Ruiz’s sentiment was reflected in the conglomeration of art students who attended the opening, many of whom expressed frustration with the Steel Plant’s label as a fashion building.

“This is our home too,” one student said after recalling an unwelcoming encounter with a “fashion lady” while touring the upstairs of the building last semester.

Nonetheless, the students were content with the ceremony itself.

“I was very pleased with the representation that art got in the speech. I didn’t expect it,” Alleva said.  

The renovation project expanded on the original 12,000 square feet with a two story, 35,000 square foot addition. Steel Plant Studios now has two floors and six different labs, including a textile design lab, a fashion digital lab, and a printmaking lab. Steel Plant also features a dining center in the Winter Garden, which President Yellen described as part of Marist’s efforts to distribute dining options to more buildings on campus.

Smith noted that there will be a faculty exhibition opening at Steel Plant within the next two-to-three weeks, but for now, it appears that the faculty is more excited about the students’ work than anything else.

Mary Ceniza ‘19 contributed to this report.

Mike MinardiComment