New JCCC Fine Arts & Design Studios: Extraordinarily Reimagined for the 21st Century

In February, a celebratory groundbreaking will launch construction for the new Johnson County Community College Fine Arts & Design Studios. The fulfillment of a vision conceived by members of the college’s arts and design faculty more than a decade ago, this building will be a bright new home for all of the school’s studio arts programs.

Scheduled for completion in October 2018, the 37,000-square-foot, $18 million facility will bring students and faculty together from painting, drawing, sculpture, ceramics, metalsmithing, filmmaking, photography and graphic design programs. Under this extraordinary state-of-the-art roof, the synergy between all of the arts will be elevated as they begin their new collaboration.

“Up until now, all of the different arts and design areas have been in their own silos on campus,” said Mark Cowardin, Fine Art, Photography, and Film chair. “In our new building, we hope to create an environment where we can connect students and they can create more collaboratively. This is certainly a trend in the art world — silos are breaking down across all disciplines.”

Award-winning lead architect, James Pfeiffer, designed the project with the assistance of his team at BNIM in Kansas City. A shimmering capstone in the JCCC cultural corridor, the new studios will deepen and reinforce not only the cultural but the physical connections between the Nerman Museum of Contemporary Art, the Regnier Center, the Carlsen Center and the Wylie Hospitality and Culinary Academy.

“This building is about connections,” said Pfeiffer, during an October presentation at Nerman MoCA about the project. “It’s about connecting students to their work, connecting students to faculty, connecting the past to the future, connecting the arts on this campus, and then expanding to the greater community and beyond.”

Community colleges are more critical than ever, and they are the nation’s foundation for experiential learning, where students learn by doing and making, Pfeiffer observed. “Imagine privileging the roots as the beautiful aspect of the flower, not the blossoms,” he said.

As the physical foundation from which JCCC students’ work will be created, blossom and thrive, the studios building is designed to meet numerous obligations and responsibilities. With every inch maximized for student learning and faculty instruction, the goal has been to build a highly functional, joyful and inspiring facility that completes and complements the JCCC Arts District. It is also another signature architectural statement for the campus.

Pfeiffer also designed the building to intentionally shape and seamlessly bring together the outdoor spaces between the buildings in this designated Arts District, in order to energize the environment, as well as those who learn, teach and find inspiration there.

“This building will be resilient,” Pfeiffer said. “It’s not a pristine object. It’s about work, about exploration. It’s also about transformation, authenticity and delight. It should inspire new ways of thinking, wonder and seeing one’s work in a new light.”

Enlivened by an abundance of natural light, the studios’ numerous multi-use spaces can easily be converted from classroom to exhibit and critique spaces. They will also accommodate program expansion in the various departments, as well as ongoing industry changes in the arts fields. The design incorporates an expanded aluminum mesh ceiling from which art can be hung, along with moveable walls throughout the two-story building that can be expanded for arts events across all disciplines. “The new building is an integral part of the college’s current fundraising campaign, and numerous naming opportunities exist — including the building itself,” stated Kate Allen, associate vice president, Institutional Advancement.

“I’m so happy to be with fine art,” said Nancy Schneider Wilson, graphic design professor. “It’s a real win to have students working side by side with all of the other arts.”

A highly considered and planned element of the design, the studios’ exterior looks toward the future while maintaining a complementary contrast with existing campus structures. Offering a nod to the past, the brick base plays off the fundamental warmth of the brick found in other campus buildings, while elements of white precast concrete reference the Nerman’s limestone facade and other incorporated stone elements on campus. Created from a highly reflective material that will shimmer in natural light, a glass scrim on the north side of the building can be used to project artists’ images and videos.

JCCC will celebrate its 50th anniversary in 2019. “The mission of this college is to always meet the needs of our community, and the arts are an important part of that vision,” said Dr. Joe Sopcich, president of JCCC. “Arts District buildings are sited to welcome students and the entire community.”

“Placing the studios building in close proximity (immediately south of Regnier Center) to the museum encourages numerous potential collaborations,” stated Bruce Hartman, executive director, Nerman MoCA. “The Arts District will serve as an epicenter of creativity and excitement on campus and in the community!”

renderings courtesy BNIM Architects

About The Author: Anne Marie Hunter

Anne Marie Hunter

Anne Marie Hunter is a writer and photographer who holds a B.S. in speech and art history from Northwestern University and a M.A. in Art Education from Southern Oregon University. Her work includes newspaper, magazine and corporate photography and writing assignments and projects. You can view and read her work at


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