By Chelsea Weeks, News Editor (Photo by Preston Morris/The Bison)
Whether students are going with Ka-Rip or singing the Alma Mater, the desire to unify students is prevalent on Oklahoma Baptist University’s campus. The new Ford Hall has also become a force to connect students.
At the beginning of the semester, OBU finished renovations of Ford Hall and opened the building to students. The main focus of the renovation was to update the aesthetics of the building, get a new HVAC system and provide students with a quality workspace. The new Ford Hall has rooms that will accommodate any student within the College of Fine Arts. There are four practice rooms with grand pianos, nine practice rooms with upright
pianos, seven art studio rooms, three mirrored theater rooms, several composition rooms, a graphic design and animation lab, four recording studios, a debate team room and a variety of lobbies throughout the building.
“The intent of the building is for the students of our entire college to have a home there,” Dean of the Warren M. Angell College of Fine Arts, Dr. Christopher Mathews said.
“They’re intended, especially in the practice rooms, to involve as many students as
The renovations cost nearly 1.9 million dollars, which included construction repairs, all new equipment, a new HVAC system, interior and exterior updates, new windows and a
new roof. This renovation was introduced in the Vision 2020 plan. The official kickoff for
the renovation was Aug. 30, 2017, but construction had actually started in May after
“There’s some practicality needed in the remodel and all those things have been identified in Vision 2020,” Mathews said. “They knew we had to address the HVAC and the aesthetics. Where I came into the picture, I felt like we had an opportunity to expand the mission of that facility. It has served the university well for 65 years as a music building, but its space could be re-envisioned in a broader scope for our college.”
Mathews said he recalls coming to OBU for his interview and only seeing four out
of the five buildings within the College of Fine Arts. Ford Hall had been so aesthetically deteriorated, it often was passed by.
“When we first started renovations, I knew firsthand that Ford was a place we didn’t want anybody to see and one of my goals was for Ford to be one of the first places we wanted people to see,” Mathews said. “We’d used to try and walk people very quickly by that building and not show it to them, and now were wanting, in preview days and Be A Bison days, for students to see the quality of OBU and what it is that we do.”
The design of the building is to be a work-space for students instead of a classroom. The goal is to have students feeling as if they belong there.
“I’m excited to see what students create and how they collaborate in the building,” Mathews said. “I believe we needed to foster a space where they felt wanted and invited to use their gifts. I’m excited to see what happens with that. I want all of them in there creating, dreaming and imagining together. I think that’s what makes us strong.”
At the beginning of the semester, Benjamin Baxter, assistant professor of animation and motion graphics, had his office moved into the newly renovated Ford Hall. He said the halls are alive when students start to play their music and get involved.
“I can’t say good enough things about it,” Baxter said. “I think they spent a lot of time making sure it really was nice and they didn’t just throw some carpet down or put some paint on the walls and call it a day. They really did take the time in the details to make it a great space. As far as the office goes it’s the nicest office I’ve ever had. It’s a really nice office and the view of the campus is quite stellar.”
Brianna Hawkins, a freshman music education major, said Ford Hall is beautiful and amazing. When listening to the perfectly tuned pianos she said she feels utter bliss.
“I think it will give a lift to the creative juices that flood OBU,” Haw-kins said. “Ford is definitely a unity symbol.”
All college of fine arts students can get into the building at any time. The building is open to the campus Monday through Friday 7:30 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. Any student that’s involved in a fine arts class and identified by a faculty member as needing access can request access into Ford Hall after hours.
“I want you to collaborate, I want you to rub shoulders with other artists and learn how you each tell your stories through written form, or verbal communication, or movement, or music, or composition or painting. Whatever the art may be,” Dr. Mathews said. “And to grow from hearing one another’s stories and watching how each other uses their particular art to craft their story.”