Harcum College bolsters its historic arts curriculum with new Center for Art & Design

Images via Harcum College.

A new center marrying function and form — the Harcum College Art & Design Center — will open its doors to upcoming generations of would-be artists and designers in time for the new school year.

Edith Harcum, a concert pianist, founded Harcum College in 1915 as a finishing school infused with a fine arts curriculum. The college’s fine-arts legacy continued through the 1970s and 80s, largely because of renowned Philadelphia artist Martin Zipin. For nearly four decades, he presided as the chair of Harcum’s art department, served as a faculty member, and inspired generations of artists as an artist-in-residence until his death in 1991.

The new center will allow Harcum to capitalize on its historic strengths in art and design instruction by consolidating all the existing art and design-related degree programs in one larger, aesthetic, and inspiring space while accommodating for the growth of new and recently adopted degree programs in the art and design arena.

“This is a programmatic initiative, not merely one allowing us to expand our physical plant,” said Harcum President Jon Jay DeTemple. “The Art & Design Center is a strategic path to academic and curricular growth.”

Harcum has offered selected majors in the design field, such as Fashion and Interior Design, for years. However, with the acquisition of two signature programs from the Antonelli Institute of Photography and Graphic Design in 2018, Harcum has brought to fruition a strategic goal: to incorporate the fine arts into all academic programming, growing the offerings in the art and design fields and finding space for them.

“The Art & Design Center offers the ideal learning environment for the Antonelli programs now at Harcum,” said John Hayden, Vice President of Institutional Advancement at Harcum and Former President of the Antonelli Institute. “Both institutions have common roots in the arts – Antonelli famously as well, dating back to its founding in 1938 by Severo Antonelli. Now, we have a space where these new programs can take root and flourish.”

The space inspiring Harcum’s artistic renaissance is the award-winning former American College building at 270 South Bryn Mawr Avenue. Harcum College took occupancy in July 2019.

The facility was created with perspective and purpose in 1972 by an internationally known architectural firm, Mitchell Giurgola. With its floor-to-ceiling windows, garden level, atrium, skylights, life drawing studio space, and park-like setting, its new purpose as a learning center for Harcum art and design students is perfectly realized.

The outdoor plaza at the front of the C-shaped building would be the ideal venue for the Annual Fashion Show produced by fashion design and merchandising students. The generous grounds, the ponds, the native wildlife and waterfowl, and surrounding trees and flora offer a natural classroom for photography and graphic design students.

The space will allow Harcum to offer a new major in Art & Design (fine and visual arts) beginning in 2020. The Center will also house Harcum’s Partnership Sites program offices.

Other curricular ideas are in discussion. Plans include offering gallery shows and bringing in artists-in-residence, a nod to Zipin. Television and radio studios on the lower level will offer the ideal catalyst for opening Harcum up to other organizations to use those facilities.

The step is a bold one for Harcum, as it has not acquired new learning space since 2010. However, it became evident that the college needed to add more learning space to accommodate more programs and students. The logical direction was to look close by, off campus, since the current Bryn Mawr campus cannot expand its location.

A grand opening and ribbon cutting are scheduled for September. Click here for more information.

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