ANNA DELLINGER, Features Editor
Ford Music Hall is in for a makeover – and a name change. Re-envisioned as a collaborative place for all students of the Warren M. Angell College of Fine Arts, the 66-year-old building will now be known as Ford Hall.
Dr. Will Smallwood, Senior Vice President for Advancement and University Relations, welcomed students and faculty to the official renovations beginning Wednesday, Aug. 30.
Smallwood encouraged attendees to write a prayer, Bible verse or hope for the future of the building on the walls and floors in various parts of the building.
Sharpies in hand, supporters of the College of Fine Arts walked throughout the building to leave their mark.
This renovation is the first Ford Hall has seen since its original construction in 1951. However, plans to renovate have been in the works for years.
“I think it’s been on the radar for multiple administrations, but because of the [practice] facilities that we have in Raley Chapel… and what every administration does is prioritize needs, so other needs probably moved up into the higher prioritization,” Smallwood said.
Julie Welch, a junior vocal performance major, said she is excited about the renovation of Ford.
“We’ve needed a facilities’ improvement for some time now, and I’m incredibly thankful that those steps are being taken now,” Welch said.
Originally, Ford Hall was in the Vision for a New Century Campaign. The fundraising was to be completed by December 2016.
Under the direction of Dr. Bill Ford, the chair for the campaign, OBU met that financial goal of $42 million more than a year and a half before that deadline.
Despite meeting the financial goal, some donors had contributed gifts for projects that were not in the campaign, so certain project goals – such as the money needed for Ford Hall – were not met.
Over the past two years, however, many donors have given gifts of varying amounts to contribute to the approximately $1.5 million project.
Though the official beginning of renovations was held two weeks ago, construction started the week after graduation last May.
Crews from Lingo Construction have been working through the summer in order to minimize the inconvenience for students.
“Timing-wise there was never going to be a good time except when we had a semester and a summer,” Smallwood said.
“Once students and OBU campus community sees what Ford is going to become, I think the inconvenience is forgotten.”
CJC Architects out of Tulsa created the plans for Ford Hall. They have been OBU’s architects for 40 plus years, and many buildings on campus have been designed by them.
CJC Architects are working in conjunction with, Lingo Construction, an Oklahoma City-based firm that has worked on many projects for OBU aside from Ford Hall, such as Stavros Hall.
“Stan Lingo is the president and is a strong support of OBU and our mission. They are our go-to construction company,” Smallwood said.
“They help us to get the most value for our renovation and construction projects.”
Construction is to be completed sometime by the end of the semester. Work will continue from the end of the semester through the J-term to make sure Ford Hall is ready to go for the spring of 2018.
Sometime in the spring, the College of Fine Arts will hold an official grand opening.
Dr. Chris Matthews, Dean of the Warren M. Angell College of Fine Arts and Professor of Music, has been a major proponent in the vision for Ford Hall.
Upon his first visit to OBU in November of 2015, he remembers a tour – specifically one that didn’t include Ford Music Hall.
“They showed me all of the buildings… except for Ford,” Matthews said.
He accepted the job as dean in the first week of December 2015, and he remembers two things from walking into Ford for the first time.
“I thought, ‘it needs help: it is hard for recruiting and this needs attention,’” Matthews said.
“My second thought – what great history. Dean Angell in 1938 began the Bison Glee Club and Ford was built with [their] practice room in mind.”
Matthews brings a new vision for Ford Hall connected to a larger dream for the College of Fine Arts. He is seeking to create a way for the college to draw all of the arts together in collaborative ways.
“I would love for this building to move from a music hall to a fine arts village,” Matthews said.
While the classrooms are places for master teachers to impart their wisdom, Ford is intended to be a space where people take that wisdom and work on it.
Welch has encountered that same practice in her studies at here.
“Ford is a place where a lot of the magic happens. It’s where tears have been shed, friendships made, revolutions have occurred and where artists get to grow and refine their craft,” Welch said.
“I am so excited to experience all of these things again in a newly-improved and comfortable space.”
Within Ford Hall, there will be spaces dedicated to multiple aspects of the College of Fine Arts.
Theater students will have rooms with mirrors to practice monologues and art students will have studios.
There will be rooms with baby grand pianos for piano majors and upright pianos for vocal students.
Howard’s chapel will be used for small performances such as a string quartet or monologue performance.
New lighting, wiring, heating and air conditioning are all set to be installed in Ford Hall as well.
“With this remodel, I feel that practicing will be so much more enjoyable and pleasant because we won’t have to worry about the heat or get distracted by a rat scampering around to our music,” Welch said.
The third floor will contain three recording spaces, so students that are interested in sound production and editing have a place to work. Ford Hall will also have a computer lab for animation and design students.
While Ford Hall was formerly known across campus as a building open nearly 24/7, the improvements and added technology will add a new level of security: key card access to the building.
Looking forward, Matthews has two measurements of success in Ford Hall.
“I want to see products come out that are collaborative, such as a short film by a student in animation with music written by another student,” Matthews said.
“The other sign of success is when I have fine arts students coming in to complain to me that Ford is so full they can’t get in – students are using it.”
Thinking back to his introduction to OBU’s campus, Matthews has another goal for Ford Hall.
“I want that the next time we have a prospective faculty or student, the building we show them with most pride is Ford,” Matthews said.
As Ford Hall undergoes its vast renovations, Smallwood and his team are also raising money to renovate Wood
Science Building and to build a Student Services Center, as well as envisioning future projects for the university.