by Nat Frothingham
MONTPELIER — In mid-August, Vermont College of Fine Arts (VCFA) was notified of a $30,000 Cultural Facilities grant through the Vermont Arts Council to support the construction of a newly renovated and ADA-compliant public access ramp at the entrance of College Hall. Construction of the ramp will begin in May 2018 with an expected completion date of June 2018.
Katie Gustafson, VCFA’s Vice President for Campus Planning told The Bridge why the facilities grant was so important. First, the existing public access ramp, now more than 25 years old, is in serious need of reconstruction and is no longer compliant with the (ADA) Americans with Disabilities Act. Second, according to Gustafson, College Hall is VCFA’s most frequently used building. It’s where all of the college’s academic programs meet. It’s also a venue for concerts, film screenings, exhibitions and lectures. And most of the college’s administrative offices are located in College Hall. Third, and this underlies the entire project, is the college’s commitment to student and community inclusion and to the goal of full ADA compliance. Talking about College Hall, Gustafson said, “For us it’s a priority for everyone to have access to it.”
In a letter supporting the college’s grant application to the Vermont Arts Council — Montpelier Mayor John Hollar wrote approvingly of the College’s record of campus stewardship and attention to College Hall. Wrote Hollar, “I support this application for several reasons. VCFA has worked tirelessly over the last decade and spent significant resources on multiple maintenance projects on College Hall. As a neighbor of the college, it has been heartening to see VCFA devote significant resources toward maintaining this beautiful, historic building.”
Gustafson said that the $30,000 cultural facilities grant would help pay for the reconstruction of the public access ramp. But the grant alone won’t pay the whole bill for the project. Said Gustafson, “It’s not quite half of what it’s going to cost us. It offsets the full expense of the project.”
But on behalf of the college she also acknowledged what the grant has made possible, saying, “We knew we couldn’t afford to do it, unless we got help.”
Looking back on the past 10 years, she said, “Since the college opened about 10 years ago, close to $750,000 has been spent on College Hall.”