The second floor of 281 Masonic is buzzing with the activity of its new occupants—the Performing Arts and Social Justice (PASJ) department. Students are coming by to declare a major or minor, asking about classes or simply checking out the new space.
“We didn’t have half this much activity last year,” said Francesca Rivera, assistant professor and co-coordinator of the music program.
The new school year takes the Performing Arts department from their five-year stay in their trailers on Lone Mountain to a new home on a portion of the second floor in the building that was formerly the College of Professional Studies. The building is now called the Masonic building (abbreviated MA).
The move was a long process that began when the department was moved from the third floor of Lone Mountain to the trailers.
“A number of possibilities were analyzed, but none was ever well suited for a variety of complex reasons,” said Marcelo Camperi, interim dean for the College of Arts and Sciences and professor of physics and astronomy.
Ellen G. Maloney, program assistant, and Rivera discussed what it was like being housed in the trailers.
“From my perspective it wasn’t so bad in the trailer, but what I am grateful to have now is, first of all, to be in a building that is accessible to anyone with a physical disability. Second, to have bathrooms that are right in the building; to not have to do the dash half way across LoMo,” said Rivera.
“Or schedule when to go to the bathroom,” said Maloney. Due to the fact that the trailer was right out in the open and unprotected by concrete structures, the staff had to figure out ways to countersome problems. For Maloney, it was dealing with her office being extremely cold.
“One thing you heard in my office all the time was a small under-the-desk heater that was running all the time,” said Maloney. “There was nothing anybody could do to prevent that we were just right there in the elements.”
The trailers could be a struggle, but being housed in a close contact space with most of the other faculty in the department was beneficial in many ways.
“If you’re close to your colleagues, you learn maybe how they create their syllabus and maybe they created it in a quicker manner and maybe they know a shortcut. And so that makes working a lot easier,” said Maloney.
The trailer had everything the staff needed to do their jobs.
“We sort of had everything that every other office had. It was more that we were hidden behind dumpsters, we weren’t ADA [Americans With Disabilities Act] compliant and there were no bathrooms,” said Rivera.
Rivera and Maloney felt that students and parents reacted more to the idea of trailers than anything.
“I think a lot of students were shocked to hear that you were in a trailer because psychologically that seems like, ‘Why are you in a trailer?’ I think also it sends a message about impermanence,” said Rivera.
“Really the only reason we were there was lack of space, not because the administration didn’t want to support us,” said Rivera. “I think it’s a really nice move and I think if the administration could have done it earlier they would have. I didn’t feel dissed to be in the trailer.”
The process to get the department in a permanent place began when they were moved from Lone Mountain in 2005. Different placement prospects were considered and in the spring it was decided that the department would move to their new location.
“That freed up some space in 281 Masonic. In particular, the area where PA is now located offered us the right number of offices and other needed spaces to fulfill most of the needs of the department. Thus, the decision was made to move them there,” said Camperi.
After five years the move has brought much excitement to the department which is reflected by the buzz and excitement on the floor.
“It’s a beautiful building and we’re very grateful. Little touches like the break room downstairs so that students can sit and hang are nice,” said Rivera.
It is also now in an easier access location for students who are already in the program as well as those who are interested in declaring either a major or minor.
“It’s worse if you’re farther away from the students. So if they want to stop by and pick up literature or posters you’re like six steps closer for that student to come in,” said Maloney.
“We hope that this building becomes a one-stop shop for theatre, dance and music,” said Rivera.
Rivera and Maloney emphasized the help the department received during the move and how thankful they are for everyone’s help and generosity. Among the few they mentioned were Maggie Roberts, the building coordinator, Susan Davidson and her crew, as well as Facilities, who moved everything from their old home to their new one in a matter of weeks.
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