LSU students say art building in bad shape, university says no money to repair

Published: Apr. 3, 2014 at 11:31 PM CDT
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BATON ROUGE, LA (WAFB) - LSU's School of Art routinely produces beautiful, award-winning paintings and sculptures. But the space where many of those works are created is in disrepair. Now students are taking action to raise awareness, and hopefully money.

Senior Ellen Farrar calls it the "School of Decay." On a tour of the Studio Arts buildings she points out where a 300-pound concrete ceiling tile came crashing down.

"Luckily it was over Thanksgiving break and no one was in here," Farrar said. "They didn't really replace the ceiling. They basically just removed the rest of the concrete bricks."

The Studio Arts buildings have stood since 1924, and ninety years later that's obvious. Some light fixtures are secured by wire, hanging from radiators on the ceiling.

"This green paint, these two different colors, it's all lead paint," Farrar said as she continues the tour. "You can see all the mold on the walls up there, and here's the spot where we tested."

Students bought their own mold and lead test kits and posted the "positive" results on what they call their "Hall of Shame." It's a collection of pictures of damage and newspaper clippings documenting the problems.

"It is demoralizing, and as far as getting work done, it actually is difficult to work in here because of the temperatures and the fears of working at night," Farrar said.

The buildings have no central air conditioning or heat, and students say temperatures in the summer months often exceed 100 degrees. Adding to their frustration is the fact that many of the doors leading into the Studio Arts complex don't lock, which makes working at night a safety concern.

"Am I valued as a student? Am I valued as a person? When I pay tuition just like other people, shouldn't I be valued as much as the other departments?" Farrar wonders.

Thursday afternoon around 100 students traded their brushes for picket signs and marched silently through campus. They wore safety masks to symbolize what they say is a risk to their health. Some of the slogans read Flagship Down, It's Baroque - Fix it! and Love Purple, Live Mold.

LSU falls in Senator Dan Claitor's district. Claitor's father, grandfather, wife and son all used the building during their time at the university. He says he's sympathetic to the students' demands, but that the budgetary pie is simply too small for all the departments wanting a piece. It would take about $15 million to renovate the building.

"The money for a new building is in capital outlay, but the problem is when does it actually get funded to build the new building," Claitor said.

Studio Arts routinely moves up the list of buildings set for repairs, but is inevitably bumped back down by other projects and departments that take precedence. Claitor says it may ultimately be up to the Art department and their supporters.

"What the other parts of the schools have done is they've made partnerships with the private industry to get the buildings done, and I'm encouraging the kids and folks that are interested in the arts to figure out how to partner with the Art School so that we can get a new building. But $15 million is not chump change," Claitor said.

Meaning for now students will have to crack the windows and hope for a mild summer.

Claitor says LSU maintains that there is no health threat to the students and faculty who use the building. The university released a statement Thursday afternoon:

"The university has requested and continues to request funds for Studio Arts. The state previously provided some funding for the renovation, and we await additional dollars through the capital outlay process," said Ernie Ballard, LSU media relations director.

Some of the students set up a Facebook page to document the problems:

They plan another protest on the steps of the State Capitol around 9 am Tuesday, April 8.

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