August 27 marks the debut of a gorgeous exhibition space primarily for the School of Art and Design. The light-filled, two-story gallery in the dramatically expanded lobby of the Pomerantz Art and Design Center, located on the northwest corner of Seventh Avenue at 27th Street, will become a hub for cutting-edge art shows that feature the work of renowned artists alongside students and faculty.
“It’s not going to follow the usual structure of a university or college gallery,” says Troy Richards, dean of the School of Art and Design. “It will house themed exhibitions with well-known artists, featuring complementary student and faculty work.”
“We want it to be a laboratory,” adds Austin Thomas, exhibitions manager for the gallery, “a place to try out innovative ideas.”
The space was designed by David Smotrich & Partners, an architectural firm that has worked on numerous campus spaces. It features natural materials in keeping with FIT’s Brutalist aesthetic, such as marble, limestone, and glass. However, unlike the fortress-like facades of Brutalism, the street-facing walls are glass. An intimate gallery in the back can be used for standalone exhibitions and special gatherings, and a second-floor floating classroom, visible to people on Seventh Avenue through floor-to-ceiling windows, will accommodate visiting artists and visually compelling courses. All told, the renovation quadrupled the amount of space in the lobby.
“There’s this dynamic interaction between the public and the school,” says Deborah Homan, the managing partner at David Smotrich. “Day and night, passersby will be able to see fantastic art.”
The technology, too, is state-of-the-art. A Unistrut rigging system in the ceiling can be used to hang artworks of up to 500 pounds, and a complex array of lighting is handily controlled by an iPad. The space is flexible enough to feature two- and three-dimensional work from any of FIT’s 17 Art and Design majors.
“There are 28 college and university galleries in New York,” Thomas says, “and none are like this.”