Fine Arts Center final plans receive green light from H-F board

The Fine Arts Center proposed for Homewood-Flossmoor High School will add approximately 8,000 square feet to the South Building.
 
The project, discussed since fall 2017, is in the home stretch. Depending on contractors’ bids and schedules, work could begin in summer.
 
The design calls for large rooms, lots of natural light, high ceilings in the hallways and rooms with skylights. There will be a trophy case and space for a student art gallery.
 
Terrazzo flooring will be featured in the new wing, the H-F seal will be embedded near the theater entryway and logos for the different arts programs will be laid in the floor as identifiers and directionals, according to Ed Wright of DLA Architects. 
 
  Photo 1: North entrance to the Performing Arts
  Center at H-F with new fine arts wing on left;
  Photo 2: Kedzie Avenue entrance to Mall Auditorium
  and new music wing on right; Photo 3: Lobby at
  Mall Auditorium; Photo 4: Entrance from north lot
  to new theater wing.
(Provided images)
 
Brick and stonework used in the North Building will be repeated in this project. Wright said he is trying to tie the two buildings together architecturally. 
 
The board went through months of meetings with teachers and students, hearing about how cramped their spaces were. Cost was the sticking point, but the board finally agreed the district has enough money in reserve to support a 20,000 square-foot Fine Arts Center. It allocated $10 million for this project.
 
Currently, the rooms are too small to adequately accommodate the number of students in the Fine Arts Program. Faculty were especially concerned about the cramped quarters just as the district is launching the MVP Program, a collaborative program between media, visual arts and performing arts designed to prepare students for college curriculum and employment in the arts field.
 
The final drawings for the proposed Fine Arts Center were presented at the Jan. 18 board meeting. Wright used a 360-degree computer presentation to give District 233 board members a look at how all the spaces will fit together.
 
Wright has been working with the administration, department chairs and faculty for more than 18 months on how best to reconfigure and redesign space on the north end of the building. 
 
He met with faculty for the performance arts, fine arts, choral, band and orchestra programs just before winter break and got an enthusiastic response to this design. 
 
The plans call for an addition onto the Mall Auditorium for a new performance space, a prop shop and prep area, dressing rooms and storage.
 
The build-out for the music wing extends into a grassy area on the west side of the South Building, 999 Kedzie Ave. in Flossmoor. 
 
The fine arts program will move from another area of the building into the space the music program will be vacating.
 
Each new music space will include storage, staff offices and practice rooms. 
 
Board member Debbie Berman asked how the district will be able to make adjustments to the space, if numbers drop off in one program but increase in another.
 
Wright said the music rooms are different sizes but all have the same amenities, so the spaces can be interchangeable between the programs if need be.
 
The music programs will no longer deal with risers, the permanent steps that restricted movement. The risers have been an impediment for musicians trying to carry instruments up and down. Wright said the new large spaces will give students enough room to maneuver in.
 
The choral program will have movable risers that can easily be moved into the performance spaces.
 
The wall of windows facing south at the auditorium entrance will be gone, but Wright pointed out the high ceilings and windows that will let natural light into the space.
 
In that hallway will be restrooms. Wright said the facilities will comply with all government requirements for handicapped accessibility. For many, it will be a big improvement over the current set-up, which requires guests to go down a flight of stairs to the restrooms. 
 
The board will accept bids for this project about mid-February, and should be able to award the work contracts in March, Wright said. Bidding will be as one big project and in pieces, so that board members can decide how to move forward.
 
Board member Jody Scariano asked if the board should expect higher costs from a year ago when the board first discussed the construction project.
 
Wright said he did anticipate a rise in the cost.
 
“That’s just the nature of construction and we’re just at the time right now where there’s a lot going on out there and the economy’s ticking,” he told board members.
 
Wright said he worked with faculty to reduce costs where possible. Music practice rooms were dropped. Some lighting and mechanicals in the current music space are still useable, so replacement was deferred.

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