Friday Jun 08, 2012
University administrators expect that number to increase significantly once the new Portage University Center opens its classrooms this fall to students of IU Northwest, as well as to those from Ivy Tech Community College, Purdue University North Central and Valparaiso University.
When the 31,500-square-foot building opens late this summer at 6260 Central Ave., IU Northwest will move out of The Portage Commons and into the new, larger space, which will facilitate additional course offerings. Students will be able to take many freshman core courses and upper-level education and criminal justice courses, as well as Spanish and business courses, among many others.
Thanks to an innovative agreement between the area’s major colleges and universities, students will have the added benefit of access to computer labs, study and lounge areas, a science lab, and faculty members who will keep offices there.
“The Portage Commons has had a tremendous impact as far as making an Indiana University degree accessible to more students,” said Executive Vice Chancellor for Academic Affairs David Malik. “For many IU Northwest students, who juggle a host of family and work obligations in addition to their academic lives, close proximity can be the difference between being able to attend college or not. We are proud to be able to extend our mission beyond our immediate confines.”
An ‘artistic’ approach to extending campus’s reach
The Portage site is but one example of how IU Northwest has stepped beyond its campus perimeter to extend its higher education footprint for the benefit of the greater Northwest Indiana community.
When Tamarack Hall flooded in 2008, the campus’s arts and theatre programs were displaced but not disrupted. IU Northwest’s Performing and Fine Arts departments moved into a temporary location in 2011 at the Village Shopping Center at 37th Avenue and Grant Street in Gary.
Since then, the Arts on Grant facility has matured into a bustling cultural hub for IU Northwest. Students file past artists’ easels and pottery wheels as they find their way to classes in ceramics, sculpture, photography, printmaking, graphic design, and painting. The theater department’s scene and costume shops are also located here. A smaller nearby building has been transformed into an intimate “black box” performance venue for Theatre Northwest, the performance arm of the Department of Performing Arts.
“There is a kind of optimism and enthusiasm that the new facility has brought to our students because of the added space and the communal atmosphere that is evolving,” said Professor of Fine Arts David Klamen, who is chair of the Department of Fine Arts. “I think that the work being created in our department is the strongest in its history. It is remarkable, compared not only to peer institutions but any institution.”
The spacious parking lot at Arts on Grant provides additional parking for students, faculty and staff, and a free RedHawk Shuttle service provides safe and easy transport to the Moraine Student Center and the Library Conference Center on campus.
But Arts on Grant does more than just offer a solution for the academic arts programs. It also provides a boost for the Gary neighborhoods that surround it.
“Heightened activity in an area typically equals an economic benefit for surrounding business,” Malik said. “The bigger IU Northwest’s footprint in the community, the bigger the impact on the economic health of a community. The shuttle even affords the opportunity for campus staff and students to visit those businesses for lunch and shopping.”
Klamen said that he is forging a partnership with an arts and culture subcommittee of the City of Gary that he expects ultimately will strengthen the arts community in Gary. Though the scope of that relationship is yet to be determined, Klamen said that he is excited about the potential for collaboration and the expansion of arts in the region.