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University of Windsor President Alan Wildeman, Marilyn Racotivis, Helena Ventrella and Drew Dilkens cut the ribbon at the grand opening of the School of Creative Arts' Freedom Way Building on March 22, 2018.University of Windsor President Alan Wildeman, Marilyn Racotivis, Helena Ventrella and Drew Dilkens cut the ribbon at the grand opening of the School of Creative Arts' Freedom Way Building on March 22, 2018.

School of Creative Arts 'one of the most exciting creative spaces in Canada'

UWindsor president Alan Wildeman was joined by faculty, staff, students, and University supporters today as he cut the ribbons on the new School of Creative Arts (SoCA) buildings, located on downtown Windsor’s Freedom Way.

The president also announced that the Armouries main lobby will be named Veterans Hall to honour the building's military heritage.

The new creativity precinct, located between Park Street and University Avenue, saw the conversion of the 46,000 square-foot former Armouries Building, constructed in 1900, into a 66,000-square-foot arts hub. The adjacent Freedom Way Building on the former site of the Tunnel Bar-B-Q provides an additional 20,000 square-feet of arts space.

“The Armouries building will now serve an entirely new generation and has been joined by the Freedom Way building as spaces where academic creativity is nurtured and developed with an eye to the future,” Dr. Wildeman said.

“We know that creative arts are an essential part of a community’s well-being. The new teaching and creative work spaces, and the synergy that is being created by more closely connecting our students, faculty and staff with community musicians and artists, will benefit our region for generations to come.”

The Armouries Building houses 12 practice rooms for musicians, a performance and practice hall, a library, classrooms, offices, a keyboard and computer lab, photography and painting studios, and the Visual Arts and the Built Environment (VABE) studio. The Freedom Way building houses film production studios, editing suites, a sonic art studio and making studio for sculpture, metal and woodworking.

Approximately 500 students, faculty and staff began the January semester in the new SoCA buildings, designed by CS&P Architects’ Craig Goodman and his team.

Goodman’s group was tasked with transforming the heavy, late-19th century Romanesque style Armouries Building — designed to provide a training ground for soldiers heading off to war — into light, lofty spaces intended to foster creativity.

The architect says every square inch of the Armouries was carefully considered, to pay homage to the building’s historic past, right down to the last brick — nearly all of which were repointed.

One hundred years of paint was removed from the bricks lining the Armouries interior walls, while 12,000 bricks from the 1935 south addition were dismantled, cleaned, and re-installed in the new recital hall.

New windows were custom-built to match the original look of the building, and the grand oak doors at both entrances were restored and have been repurposed.

Goodman said the original doors were too large and heavy for everyday use, so were installed to be permanently open within the building, while the entrance openings were enclosed with glass vestibules.

Wildeman says today’s grand opening marks a new chapter in UWindsor history: “It’s a fabulous place that we think is one of the most exciting creative spaces in Canada.”