The wait is over for the Illinois State University fine arts complex project.
After nearly 20 years of sitting on the 'wish list' for the university, Gov. JB Pritzker visited campus Thursday to announce the release of the remaining $52.3 million in capital funding for the $62 million renovation of facilities in the Wonsook Kim College of Fine Arts.
The announcement follows the release of funds by the Illinois Capital Development Board and the funding is part of the state’s capital spending plan which was approved last year by Pritzker.
Pritzker also announced ISU's Milner Library will receive $89 million overhaul through Rebuild Illinois for a multi-phased rehabilitation project as well as other much needed maintenance repairs totaling $5.3 million in state funds.
This includes more than $3 million to renovate mechanical and plumbing systems at three buildings and $2.3 million for roof replacement.
Rebuild Illinois is the state’s capital plan that historically passed with bipartisan supermajorities that will invest $45 billion in roads, bridges, railways, universities, early childhood centers and state facilities over the next six years.
Students, faculty, staff and members of the ISU community gathered in a gallery at the Center for Visual Arts Thursday for the highly anticipated announcement.
The fine arts complex project itself will be a combination of renovation, some demolition and new construction that will aim to enhance instructional spaces in Centennial East and West. These two buildings were both constructed in 1959 and have not seen significant renovations since.
The project also includes the Center for Visual Arts which was constructed in 1973 and the Center for Performing Arts which was completed in 2002.
Senior dance and performance major Leah Linc was thrilled to hear about the investment in the school and programs that she feels are often times overlooked.
“We only have one dance studio right now and oftentimes we have to share space with actors and other classes,” said Linc.
“There have been times where we have had to dance around pools of water, using garbage cans to collect the water that would leak from the ceiling on nights with heavy rain. Although I won’t be here to experience the new repairs as a student, I think it is very exciting for everyone in the school.”
The project will be rolling out in phases, with the first conversations already underway. An exact timeline for the construction has not yet been finalized. The university is hoping to break up the work in order to “minimize disruption to classes and programs.”
“We are starting first by getting our heads together,” said ISU President Larry Dietz.
“This long-awaited project will provide a much-needed new space for the excellent program within the Wonsook Kim College of Fine Arts.”
Dietz noted that the university was “shovel ready” many times over the past two decades when funds promised by the state fell through.
The funding for this project was first appropriated by the state in 2010. Then-Gov. Pat Quinn announced the release of the funds during ISU’s Founders Day celebration back in 2013, but the project was eventually held up at the state level.
Pritzker assured the crowd that this time there would be no push back.
Dietz extended his gratitude to the General Assembly and Pritzker for making sure this project was part of the larger capital development plan for Illinois. There were also remarks from Sen. Jason Barickman and Rep. Dan Brady.
“With this investment, we’re giving ISU’s current and future students a world-class education in a world-class facility … and we’re giving students the tools to succeed,” Pritzker said.
“When it’s done, this 67,000 square foot facility will build on ISU’s strengths in music, theater, dance and the visual arts, giving students and professors the chance to learn together across disciplines in collaborative, properly-equipped spaces.”