The arts in jeopardy at Stony Brook University as Craft Center and Art Gallery close

In the wake of announcements that Stony Brook’s Student Union would be vacated by January 2016 to make way for renovations, questions arose on the fate of the many clubs and organizations that occupy offices throughout the building.

Rooms 081 and 049 in the basement currently house the Craft Center, which holds frequent events that according to Andri Achilleos, 21, a double-major in studio art and art history, allow students to “relax and get away from the stress of work and classes,” and the Ceramics Center, where students, faculty and members of the local community gather to mold everything from sculptures to dishware.

The plans to relocate the two spaces, according to employees and frequenters of the Craft Center and its services are non-existent.

Also being lost to the Union reconstruction is the Student Activities Center Art Gallery.

According to Samantha Tracy, president of Stony Brook’s Fine Arts Organization, the space is being vacated to make way for the offices of the religious organizations that are currently housed on the second floor of the Union.

“I had to tell the future president and the future members that I’m not sure if you’re going to have a gallery space and be prepared to not have one,” said Tracy. “A huge learning tool in the art world is being able to look at your fellow students’ artwork and to share ideas. So now you have this matrix of ideas from other cultures, from other artists, from people of different ages and different skill levels, and you can walk around and you can talk about it and discuss concepts. Just that visual stimulation is a huge process in learning. That sharing of ideas really benefits Stony Brook and the Stony Brook community.”

This has raised concern amongst students and employees of the Craft Center and Art Gallery, who argue the value of having organizations and events like the Craft Night and student galleries on campus.

Along with Samantha Tracy and Emily Brownawell, a senior studio art major and avid user of the Ceramics Center, Achilleos began two petitions for the Craft Center and Art Gallery to raise awareness of the situation among the student body, reaching 1,200 signatures and earning the Craft Center administration a meeting with Dean of Students and Assistant VP of Student Affairs Tim Ecklund, who heard the case for maintaining outlets like theirs on campus.

“We didn’t start the petition as craft center employees, but as students,” said Achilleos. “We can actually show that students care.”

The case Achilleos and other advocates for finding a new place for these outlets is the necessity for stress relief provided by artistic endeavors.

“I definitely know that a lot of students, especially with the Craft Nights, come here to destress and to relax,” said Mikaela Batista, a graduate student in the Art History program who recently started working in the Craft Center.

According to Kate Valerio from Stony Brook’s Health Education office, the stress relief afforded by art is very real.

“There are definite health benefits to finding ways to distract yourself and use your hands” said Valerio. “[Health Education] has utilized the Art Gallery in several ways to support destressing of students. We’ve hosted poetry night in the Art Gallery among other events. Finding ways to utilize your hands has a definite stress-relieving effect.”

Batista said, “[The Craft Center] is just a great place to come and be creative. You don’t have to be an artist to enroll in a class here or learn or to meet new friends. I think that should be something that’s valued here, especially for students.”

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