Weekly Update — Tyler’s shiny new building

This week’s Weekly has my story about Tyler School of Art’s move to Center City. Below is the copy. I’ve added back some of the text that was cut or changed in the edited version. Lots of photos at my flickr and at Libby’s flickr. See our earlier post.

painting studios connect on 3rd floor
North-facing painting studios on the 3rd floor of the new Tyler School of Art

The shiny new Tyler School of Art building at 12th and Norris streets looks like an office-park jewel—all glass, steel and brick. But don’t be deceived by the boxy exterior; the three-story, 234,000-square-foot replacement for the 73-year-old art school’s Elkins Park campus is no palace for bean counters. Inside are wide-open spaces, bright colors, soaring ceilings, a sleek cafe and a new L-shaped gallery. Of course there are state-of-the-art classrooms, studios, kilns, tools, glass-blowing stations, ventilation systems and, for the first time, offices for Tyler faculty.

New Temple Gallery at the new Tyler School of Art.
New Temple Gallery at the new Tyler School of Art.

I took a hard-hat tour of the $75 million building in September with Gregory Murphy, Tyler assistant dean for development, and Temple spokesperson Hillel Hoffmann. The third-floor painting studios with floor-to-ceiling windows look north over treetops and rowhouses. Fill that building with artists, sprinkle a little sawdust in the woodshop and splatter some paint in the studios and the new Tyler will thrum like the art incubator it’s always been—only now, transformed by the buzz of the city.

Cafe looking out on the green space…a work in progress.

As a reminder of the suburban space they’re leaving, the architectural plans include a grassy courtyard, which will be the largest green space on Temple’s urban campus. The yard will be landscaped with plants harvested from the school’s former home in Elkins Park.


glass equipment waiting to be unwrapped
Glass blowing equipment waiting to be unwrapped.

The formal dedication for the building is March 25, 2009, but the school’s departments and equipment will be moved this fall and students will begin classes in January. Temple Gallery in Old City will stay open through February with exhibitions and through April with special experimental events, according to Sheryl Conkelton, gallery director. In late March Temple Gallery programming—including M.F.A. exhibitions—will begin in the Tyler building.

Conkelton told me that Exhibitions Coordinator Shayna McConville is leading a new project to create and coordinate a North Philadelphia Arts and Culture Alliance. That project is scheduled to debut in the Spring.


patio area for sculpture or ceramics (both have one)
Patio area. Ceramics and Sculpture both have outdoor patios outside the work areas.

With this move, Tyler’s 1,500 students will be united in one location. Until now, half of the students have been stationed on main campus—in art education, art history and architecture. The addition of Tyler students, faculty and staff means longer lines at the food trucks, bookstore and Starbucks, as well as continued parking and housing problems for the already crowded campus.

green space
The green space, looking not so green when we saw it.

Most of the money for the building is from the state of Pennsylvania ($61M). And fundraising for the big building is ongoing. Two local foundations with ties to Tyler recently donated $750,000 ($275,000 from the Connolly Foundation; $500,000 from the Gilroy and Lillian Roberts Foundation).

Meanwhile, Tyler has benefitted from Temple’s hiring boom. Since 2006, Tyler has 14 new tenured and tenure track faculty while Temple has added 300 new tenured and tenure track positions since 2004.

photo lab
Photo lab. There will be both wet and digital photography labs.

Some Tyler folks will miss the suburban quietude, and surely there will be some personality tweak to the school in its new digs. All change is hard. But it’s exciting that the 73-year old leading art school in the region will now be physically engaged with the city and ready to take a leadership role at this exciting time in the arts.