Crafters protest closing of UC San Diego art center

By Ashley Mackin

UC San Diego officially and suddenly closed its Crafts Center at 9500 Gilman Drive on Sept. 26, canceling the workshops, non-credit classes and exhibits typically held there.

Those who frequent the facility called the closure “heartbreaking” and “devastating,” and will fight the closure with online petition drives and planned fundraisers.

interim Director Joyce Rooks stands in the nearly empty front room of the crafts center. Ashley Mackin

The instructors must leave the Crafts Center by Oct. 19.

“It’s pretty terrible; everyone found out their job was gone that day,” said jewelry teacher Tara Magboo.

Registration for jewelry making, glassblowing, ceramics, and other art classes was ongoing when the announcement came. It affected some 500 UCSD students, faculty and community members who use the Crafts Center each year. Those registered for classes this quarter will have their tuition refunded.

In a press release explaining the closure UCSD stated: “Rising costs have triggered the need for budget reductions in the University Centers [including the Crafts Center ], which is funded primarily by the University Centers’ student fee. Decisions about reductions were based on students’ priorities and their usage of University Centers programs, service and facilities.

“Anticipated expenses related to facility renovations were factored into the decision. A recent facility condition analysis of the Crafts Center identified $1.5 million in needed renovation work.”

Fighting back tears, Magboo said, “I think for a lot of people, it’s the community that is really special. Coming here is like a second family, it’s a very supportive environment, addition to being around other creative people, it’s nice community because you’re around people of varying experience, so I think that really enriches the environment.”

Interim Director Joyce Rooks said the Crafts Center is a wonderful place that enriches the campus. “A great research school like UCSD deserves to have a great arts facility. Our teachers are great, they’re standouts in their fields. We just really believe the university deserves to have something like this,” she said.

sociology student Laura Pecenco shows off some jewelry she made at the Crafts Center. Ashley Mackin

Sociology graduate student Laura Pecenco agreed. “I think there is a lot of stress on this campus, it’s a very competitive environment. And while I think UCSD is an amazing school with really great academics, it’s really important to have something to parallel that, so I definitely use jewelry making as a stress reducer.”

Pecenco said she registered for two classes at the Crafts Center and built the rest of her schedule around them. She also said she was surprised when she received the campus-wide e-mail notifying students of the closure. “I think it’s very heartbreaking to have the Crafts Center close, it came as a huge shock to all of us here.”

Magboo said she didn’t like the way UCSD handled the closure. “I don’t really know what their thinking was … I think it’s honestly, kind of inhumane,” Magboo said.

Pecenco and Royce each said they’re hopeful the space will reopen. In addition to fundraisers being planned, there are two petitions online requesting the reopening of the Crafts Center that will go to the chancellor, vice chancellor of student life and assistant vice chancellor.

Royce said she will meet with the Chancellor later this month to discuss fundraising efforts and present the petitions. With 13,000 signatures already between them, the petitions are available at http://bit.ly/craftcenter and signon.org/sign/save-the-ucsd-crafts

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Posted by Ashley Mackin on Oct 17, 2012. Filed under Art, La Jolla, News, Schools. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0. You can leave a response or trackback to this entry

6 Comments for “Crafters protest closing of UC San Diego art center”

  1. Merry Maisel

    Closure of the Crafts Center is unnecessary and disgusting. It's like killing Big Bird and imagining you've killed the Federal Reserve Bank. It saves practically no money for the university–a pittance that could have been raised within a few weeks through fundraising by the teachers and students of the center. It shows truly Romneyan contempt for anyone whose sole aim in life goes beyond making money.

  2. Aparna

    Wow, this is the last thing I ever imagined that would happened at UCSD! I never went to the crafts center, but I always noticed it and liked how cozy and beautiful it looked. I feel awful for all the staff and students who are so deeply affected by this ridiculous decision.

  3. Of course anything arts related is the first to go. Arts are inspirational, educational and healing. Had this to do with anything sports related, they would be fighting to keep it, rather than underhandedly closing without notice.

  4. Rudy Toledo

    Bummer … just found out about this.

    I remember going back to 1995/96 that it was always a funky space that was disheveled and looked poorly organized. If & when it comes back, I hope it's more put together.

    Perhaps someplace by The Scripps Institute of Oceanography _ closer to the beach would be more apropos for art showings & classes.

    Especially underwater basket weaving. [lol]

    All kidding aside, when I was there as a student (2005 – 2008), not much emphasis was placed on taking these art classes for credit. So, as much as I wanted to, I never did.

    If anything, I remember this art center was promoted more for recreation & community use than for the student body. It was a biased decision from the start with little to no input from the people who benefit from the art center.

  5. Martha White

    Glad to see this covered. Any effort to reopen the Craft Center has to include a proper evaluation of the cost estimate for renovation. I have seen the report costing out the remedial work – it looks like they want the place to be a Cadillac, and the university has always funded it like a Kia. Someone needs to sit down with whoever at the University is in charge of this, and go through it item by item and determine what genuinely needs to be done, and at what cost. The contractor will always give an estimate for a high-end job – now someone needs to get practical.
    And to Rudy – it was always a recreation space, primarily for students but open to everyone. The idea was to provide a stress-free place, so it was intentionally designed not to offer credit, so there would be no pressure because of grades and assignments. Its current location is perfect – right in the middle of campus. Moving it to Scripps would essentially end all student use, it would be too far out of the way (and I speak as someone who spent a lot of time there as a student). It's not an art museum – it's a place to do things! just because you want to. You should have given it a try, even if you didn't get credit for it – you might have gotten a lot more than just a few more units on your transcript.

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