F&M Stories

Winter Visual Arts Center Opens Doors, Crosses Boundaries

After five years of dreaming, conceptualizing, planning, and constructing, a much-anticipated vision has come to life. This fall, the Susan and Benjamin Winter Visual Arts Center at Franklin & Marshall College opened its doors.

On Sept. 29, F&M President Barbara Altmann, the building's namesakes, Susan and F&M Trustee and Vice Chair of the Now to Next Campaign, Ben Winter '67, along with nearly 75 other supporters, guests, Trustees and members of the F&M community raised their glasses in honor of the landmark occasion during a blended in-person and virtual champagne toast. Winter has served on the College's Board of Trustees since 2005 and is currently a vice chairman. Ben is also a co-Chair of Franklin & Marshall's Now to Next Campaign, with a $200 million goal is the largest campaign in F&M history.

The Winters' commitment was the largest ever single gift to the college by an alumnus and the second largest in history. Joining the event via a Zoom video conference, Ben Winter said, "Susan and I are deeply committed to Franklin & Marshall College, to the richness of the educational experience here, and to the historic 'Now to Next' campaign that is generating the resources to shape the College's future and bring this building to life. Providing the lead investment for this signature facility demonstrates our belief in the liberal arts education that F&M delivers, as well as the aspirations of its world-class faculty and students."

President Altmann; Rachel Strompf '21, art history major; Kostis Kourelis, associate professor of art history; John Holmgren, associate professor of art and department chair of art, art history & film; and Steven Holl from Steven Holl Architects also spoke at the event.

Located on the south side of campus, the Winter Visual Arts Center provides a magnificent environment for the making and study of visual arts. It serves as the new home of the art, art history and film departments (which includes the film and media program), as well as the Colleen Ross Weis '85 and Martin Laiks Cinema, the Gipson Grand Forum, the Thomas A. & Georgina T. Russo Family Foundation Gallery and the as-yet unnamed West Gallery, both jointly managed by the department of art, art history and film and the Phillips Museum of Art.

"As a collective, these spaces and the creativity they spark touch every aspect of F&M's mission and reinforce our commitment to providing a world-class liberal arts education," President Altmann said. "The Winter Visual Arts Center responds to the importance of the visual arts for a changing and hurting world. It is a statement to Diplomats past, present, and future that we at F&M believe in the power of art, for self-discovery and self-expression; inquiry and reflection; fun and play; healing, activism, and hope. We at F&M believe art matters."

The bright structure is unlike any other building on the F&M campus. The building's visionary, world-renowned architect Steven Holl, noted that the abundance of trees scattered throughout F&M's campus provided him with a central idea for composition. As Holl conceptualized the project, he said he considered the pastime of one of the College's two founders.

"The first sketch was me thinking about Ben Franklin's kite, getting electricity somehow, stuck in the trees," he said.

This unique vision is now realized by the building's silhouette, rising kite-like into the leafy canopy. Strolling through campus or bustling to class, pedestrians can spot another angle of this view with a mirror image of the 31,000-square-foot building in a storm water reflecting pool. Before heading inside to the sculpture studio, the photography lab or cinema, students and faculty can appreciate another seamless integration of the surrounding scenery: a glass-enclosed forum in the center of the ground floor that provides a view of the green landscape of Buchanan Park.


The unique architecture, combined with the disciplines housed inside—including painting, drawing, sculpture, woodworking, architecture, photography, digital graphics and film—makes the Winter Visual Arts Center the perfect representation of the liberal arts education F&M provides.

In drawing figures, students learn anatomy. In making films, they master technology. In the gallery, they study great works and understand their past. And in the cinema, the entire community eventually will be able to gather to enjoy guest lectures, special events, film festivals, student film events and smaller musical and other performances.

The arts cross boundaries—just like a liberal arts education. Just like the Winter Visual Arts Center.

Spaces in the Winter Visual Arts Center include:

Gipson Grand Forum

Made possible by a gift from Thomas L. Gipson '65 and Patricia Gipson

Colleen Ross Weis & Martin Laiks Cinema

Made possible by a gift from Colleen Ross Weis '85 and Martin Laiks

Jonathan E. Babkow '88 & Maia Rubin Film & Media Studies Digital Lab

Made possible by a gift from Jonathan E. Babkow '88 and Maia Rubin

Ann Boyd Barshinger W'43, H'17 Painting Studio

Made possible by a gift from Ann Boyd Barshinger W'43, H'17

DesChamps Art History Reference Library & Student Workspace

Made possible by a gift from Julie Lattin DesChamps '93 and Matthew N. DesChamps '93

Laura Ensler '77 Art History Seminar Room

Made possible by a gift from and named in honor of a dear friend of Patti Harris '77 and Bloomberg Philanthropies

Thomas A. and Georgina T. Russo Family Foundation Gallery

Made possible by a gift from The Thomas A. Russo and Georgina T. Russo Family Foundation

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