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Facilities Planning: Behind the scenes at University Galleries

Before University Galleries held its grand opening and kicked off a host of cultural and community events showcasing the new location in Uptown Normal, Illinois State University’s Facilities Planning and Construction—along with its municipal counterparts—were working behind the scenes to make the gallery shine on center stage.

“The collaborative leadership demonstrated by Planning and Facilities Services in this project is a great example of the Division of Finance and Planning’s mission of service to the University,” said Interim Vice President for Finance and Planning Greg Alt. “It really is an attractive, functional space of which we and community will get a lot of valuable use.”

University Galleries under construction

University Galleries under construction this year.

Process and partnerships

The idea for a building showcasing fine arts to be enjoyed by both the campus and community started in the Master Plan 2000 but was solidified in the Master Plan 2010-2030, which called for the University Galleries’ relocation in support of the “…long and fruitful relationship with the Town of Normal.”

Soon after an opportunity to lease space in Uptown Normal for the University Galleries became available, the construction process moved swiftly beginning in early April 2014. The architectural firm of Eckenhoff Saunders Architects (ESA) of Chicago designed a beautiful and functional space, and produced a high-tech computer model that illustrated the team’s vision and would give University Galleries Director Barry Blinderman an appropriate place to showcase University and public artistic talent.

“I am most pleased that Barry and the College of Fine Arts are happy with the process and end product,” said David Gill, director of Facilities Planning and Construction Management.

The construction management functions, led by Gill in partnership with the Town of Normal’s Wayne Aldrich, director of public works, and Mark Clinch, director of facilities and energy management, worked together with local construction firm Mangieri Companies toward the common goal.

“This project required a collaborative relationship between town staff and the ISU Facilities Planning and Construction staff and is an excellent example of the town and ISU combining resources for a successful project,” said Aldrich.

Design challenges

Although the 8,370-square-foot University Galleries today looks sleek and polished, the effort wasn’t without several concerns, one of which was balancing the budget with the design.

“I’m proud that we were on budget and on schedule,” said Gill. “Each partner felt responsible protecting their charge, so it was an ongoing collaboration and agreement process.”

University Galleries Floor

Working on the floor at University Galleries.

One of the more stressful events during construction was when it was discovered that the gallery light fixtures and unique bulbs were delayed in production and shipping from New York. Gallery light fixtures are not only an important design element themselves but are also necessary to showcase the artwork and gallery events. The weekend before the grand opening a special transport had to be arranged to pick up, transport, and deliver the fixtures to the gallery in Normal where they were installed just days before the ribbon cutting.

Another project development—the polished concrete flooring that gives the “uptown” look to the gallery—was actually a design of frugality.

“The flooring was really a collaborative effort between the architects, the contractor, and Barry because of cost issues that resulted in the final product. The final solution is simple and elegant—perfect for an art gallery,” said Gill.

Both town and gown facility planning teams are proud of the final solution and the “uptown feel” of University Galleries and agree that their collaboration was key to its creation.

“The town staff greatly enjoyed working with the facilities and construction professionals at ISU and are very proud of the new University Galleries at Uptown Station,” said Aldrich.

Both Gill and Aldrich hope the relationship will foster additional partnerships in the future.