New High-Tech Visual Arts Center Opens as Hub of Creativity for MMC Students
This semester, when MMC students are encouraged to think critically and act creatively, they’ll have a new state-of-the-art home to help bring their visions to life. The College has officially opened the doors to its Judith Mara Carson Center for Visual Arts, a stunning 12,000-square-foot space it began constructing in June 2021. Classes will be held there starting Sept. 6.
The center will serve as a cross-disciplinary creative hub that brings together the College’s full range of visual arts, from graphic design, illustration, and animation to costume design, web design, and book design. Housed on the eighth floor and part of the seventh of Carson Hall, it offers MMC community members a versatile space to create, collaborate, and showcase work, as well as access to high-tech equipment.
Among other things, the center boasts a digital lab and specially equipped computers and laser cutters to support photography, illustration, animation, graphic design, and studio-practice disciplines; a digital immersion project space to showcase time-based media art; a resource library and study center; and studio and critique spaces. The facility also allows the College to better engage the public and host celebrated artists and designers with a soaring multipurpose communal space for screenings, events, and community programming.
The center was made possible by a $25 million gift from The Carson Family Charitable Trust. The gift—the largest in the College’s 85-year history—will also support student scholarships. A well-known champion of New York City arts and culture, Judy Carson graduated from MMC in 2003 with a degree in Art History.
“We remain deeply grateful to Judy and Russ Carson and The Carson Family Charitable Trust for their historic and transformational investment,” said President Kerry Walk. “The Judith Mara Carson Center for Visual Arts is where the next great visual artists will develop their creative practice, where collaboration across the College will spur innovation, and where some of the city’s most important conversations about the visual arts and the impact that creative production of all kinds has on strengthening our communities.”
The facility was designed by the award-winning architects DSK | Dewing Schmid Kearns, and the project was managed by Christian Jesselli, MMC’s capital projects manager, who described the center as a “beacon for the College and the wider community.”
“From the beginning, faculty members from across the College have been a part of the design process and our staff designed a student survey early on, so we had a lot of feedback,” said Beth Shipley, inaugural director of the Judith Mara Carson Center for Visual Arts and associate professor of art. “We also engaged alumni. We had many, many brainstorming sessions with various stakeholders.”
As a result, the center’s goals—to boost intersection and collaboration, promote the melding of creative and critical practice, and foster a sense of community—are embedded in its very architecture. Flexible classrooms and meeting spaces are framed by glass walls, with a glass roof allowing for abundant natural light. “You can see into various classrooms when you’re walking past, so there’s a sense of transparency, openness, and connection—all the things that we aspire to in our curriculum,” Shipley said.
What’s more, the additional space and state-of-the-art equipment pave the way for expanded program offerings, including a new sculpture course and a more extensive printmaking program. The Art department recently announced the launch of a new BFA, a longtime goal made possible by the center, faculty said.
“In the past, we’d tell students to keep things what we call easel-size because of space restraints, but their imaginations can really soar with the new center,” said Hallie Cohen, professor of art and director of MMC’s Hewitt Gallery of Art. “Research and imaginative life are both going to be well supported by this space.”