February 6, 2023

The Future of The Foundry

The anticipated renovation of The Foundry is underway with changes meant to create an expanded new Jack Squier Sculpture Studio and comfortable, accessible, state-of-the-art spaces for M.F.A. students.

AAP Communications

A building façade of windows and another building surrounded by trees and a blue sky in the background.

The Foundry, partially reflected in the facade of Milstein Hall. Jason Koski / Uphoto

The Foundry, most recently home to sculpture students and faculty, as well as students in the M.F.A. in creative visual arts program, is undergoing extensive renovation. The project will include aesthetic and functional updates to the full interior, an expansion of the sculpture area, and the critical addition of ventilation, cooling, and insulation to the historic building. The oldest in the suite of buildings comprising the College of Architecture, Art, and Planning (AAP), The Foundry was originally designed as a blacksmith shop in the 1860s by Charles Babcock, the first professor of architecture at Cornell. The building later became part of the Sibley College of Mechanical Engineering, was assigned to AAP in the 1960s, and the sculpture studio moved from Tjaden Hall to The Foundry. Later this year, thanks to a generous gift from Cornell trustee emeritus and mechanical engineering alumnus Robert T. Blakely III '63, '65, and his wife, Pinky Keehner, art students and faculty will return to an expanded classroom that doubles the size of the sculpture area named in honor of late art professor emeritus and prolific sculptor Jack Squier (M.F.A. '52), as well as to 12 new private graduate student studios and a group critique space.

Historic image of the blacksmith workshop and a current day view of a large open building space with white brick walls

Left, Sibley Hall Foundry forges and anvils, 1894. photo / Division of Rare and Manuscript Collections, Cornell University Library. Right, demolition phase of the 2023 renovation of The Foundry.

Blakely and Keehner's support for the project stems from a high regard for Squier, his approachability, expertise, and the unique legacy he created at Cornell. In his 47 years of teaching sculpture in the Department of Art, Squier was admired by many for his dedication to art education, for his commitment to his students, and for advancing creativity with his deep interest in experimentation, devotion to craft, and fascination with ancient cultures that drove much of his work. 

Student curled up in a chair reading a book surrounded by art projects

Kate Huffman (M.F.A. '18) in her studio in The Foundry before the building's renovation. William Staffeld / AAP

"In addition to our strong foundations in art education and creative practice, one of the many strengths of the college that unquestionably benefits our students is our facilities," says Art Chair Paul Ramírez Jonas. "With these critical updates to The Foundry, our sculpture students, graduate students, and faculty will have comfortable, state-of-the-art spaces that support the creative practices and community they build at Cornell." 

While long anticipated, The Foundry renovation project began in earnest last year with Blakely's inspiration, as well as a series of initial conversations among college leadership, alumni partners, Cornell facilities staff, and a design committee. The design committee includes Ramírez Jonas; Director of Graduate Studies in Creative Visual Arts Leeza Meksin; Art faculty Joanna Malinowska and Roberto Bertoia (sculpture); AAP Facilities Director Frank Parish; and art students/graduates Erika Germain (M.F.A. '22) and Shelby Claire Johnson (M.F.A. '23) who helped select Brooklyn-based nArchitects as the design team and informed the project's early stages. Parish will continue to work with the project manager, Marjiane Johnson, nArchitects, LeChase Construction, and Art department sculpture faculty to see the project to completion, slated for August 2023.


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