BYU-Idaho’s Visual Arts Studio is open for the Spring 2021 semester. The new Visual Arts Studio sits where the Oscar A. Kirkham Building sat for decades. The Kirkham Building had a ceramics lab, but also a lot of structural and accessibility problems. The school decided to take it down, but there still needed to be a ceramics lab, so they got to work on the Visual Arts Studio. 

Ceramics instructor, Hyrum Benson, said in the meantime, ceramics classes were being held in the basement of the Ezra Taft Benson Building. 

“They made that space great for us, you know as good as we could. We were kind of crammed in there, but it worked, it worked out,” Benson said. 

Now with the building almost finished and classes being held, ceramics and sculpting students have what they need to do their best work. 

When you enter the lobby, you’ll see a glass gallery where student projects will be on display. A wall of windows facing north brings in natural light to help showcase the work. 

Ceramics and sculptures behind a glass gallery

Andy Johnson, the director of architecture and construction management services for BYU-Idaho, said the windows were intentional. 

“They told us early on, one thing that was important to them was a lot of natural daylight,” Johnson said. 

The lobby is not the only area with a lot of natural light. Skylights run through the center of the building. The two main classrooms each have windows along the top of the walls to bring in as much natural lighting as possible to give students the best conditions for working on their projects. 

The ceramics classroom is full of pottery wheels and warm sunlight. Plenty of shelving space aligns the wall, where students can keep current projects and grab more clay. Next to the classroom is a glazing room where students can decorate their work with different colors. 

Ceramics classroom with students and shelving full of projects

Around the corner is a room full of clay that was built to hold in humidity to keep the clay malleable. 

As you keep going, you’ll come to an area where there will be a bronze foundry, which will be for creating bronze sculptures. Connected to the foundry is the entrance to a wood shop, which is used for making stands or wood sculptures.  

You’ll also find the kiln room. Once a project is ready to be finalized, it goes in the kiln where it is brought to high temperatures to be solidified. Students have the option to use gas, electric or wood burning kilns. 

“Each of those kilns give the clay a different finish or a different feel so the department has a lot of versatility on what they can show students on the curing of clay,” Johnson said. 

Classroom with ladders and cabinets with figures on top

The sculpting room has large cabinets with clay human models sitting on top in front of the windows. The light coming in helps illuminate the shapes to give a strong reference point to students. Most of the time it takes more than a day to finish a sculpture. So students can keep their projects moldable while they’re away, they can either keep it in a clay warmer, or under a heating lamp. 

Next to the sculpting building is the Bachelor’s of Fine Arts Studio. This gives those students a work space aside from the classroom. This way students can continue working even while other classes are in session. 

Although the immediate area outside of the building is still being worked on, we now have more parking on the north side of campus. There will also be grass to tie in the Visual Arts Studio with the Jacob Spori Building. On the corner facing the north is a new monument sign of BYU-Idaho that is great for photos. 

Sign that says BYU-Idaho

“At certain times in a student’s progress either getting to school or taking a break from school, definitely when they graduate, they like a place where they can take a picture, a BYU-Idaho picture,” Johnson said. 

The project is set to be finished by the end of June.