The College of Art and Design at the Rochester Institute of Technology held a ribbon-cutting ceremony on Friday marking the recent completion of a “transformational” renovation of the School of Photographic Arts and Sciences (SPAS) and honoring the former student whose donation made this possible.
The event honored Chance Wright ’18 (publicity photography), ’19 (MBA) and his mother, Pamela Mars Wright, whose $3.5 million donation fueled the renovation and reconfiguration of Gannett Hall’s third floor . It was the largest donation ever made to the college.
The celebration, which took place in the school’s brand new “Airport” lounge, featured remarks from Wright, RIT President David Munson, College of Art and Design Dean Todd Jokl, and the Director of the School of Photographic Arts and Sciences, Christye Sisson.
“The new spaces are amazing,” said Wright, whose recent additional $1.8 million donation to Saunders College of Commerce last year also funded renovations to existing facilities and the expansion of a building.
Both donations are part of Transforming RIT: The Campaign for Greatness, a billion-dollar college fundraising effort, the largest in the university’s history. This joint campaign is seeking support from a variety of investors, including alumni and friends, government and corporate partners, as well as foundations and research agencies. The campaign has raised $884 million to date.
“I think the university and college have done an amazing job complementing the look of the MAGIC Center by integrating new technologies and providing more opportunities to inspire student collaboration,” added Wright.
Jokl called the “renovation of our main photography facilities transformative for both the school and the College of Art and Design”.
“The renovations add to the strong and longstanding legacy of photography at RIT, a reputation that spans more than 100 years,” he said. “In addition to further strengthening the capabilities of our photography program and access to the most advanced resources for our students and faculty, Chance’s generous and visionary gift launched the college’s campaign to renovate Booth and Gannett halls. “
The projects are part of a multi-year master plan to renovate, rejuvenate and transform spaces to meet the growing demands of a college that serves as RIT’s creative hub at the intersection of technology, arts and design.
Work inside Gannett Hall included the addition of several student spaces and co-working spaces.
With the additional spaces in the renovation dedicated to moving media, sound capture and 4D processes, the college meets both the established and emerging curricular and industrial needs of today’s students, Sisson said.
“We couldn’t be happier with the end result; students, faculty and staff appreciated and took advantage of the new spaces and used them to teach and learn photography in new and exciting ways,” said Sisson. “Our program has always been dependent on equipment and facilities, and this renovation meets current industry standards and provides our students and faculty with the opportunity to explore future opportunities.”
Part of the renovation included the expansion of RIT’s photo equipment “cage” – popular with students and equipped with the latest student equipment and unrivaled in other photography programs – and the new open and inviting lounge allowing students and teams to work, study and collaborate.
The new digital photo lab is a state-of-the-art space designed for demonstration, group work and critique. The Mobile Media Lab contains high-performance machines for video rendering and embedded CGI, as well as augmented reality and virtual reality applications. In addition, the broadcast-quality audio room meets the needs of programs that need to integrate sound into multimedia and still image narratives.
Wright’s time at RIT not only deepened his affinity for photography and creativity, it also fueled his entrepreneurial spirit. He started The Shore Foundation, which refurbishes and donates computers to those in need, as a student. Coincidentally, on Friday his venture capital firm Skull, Diamond and Heart (SDH) Capital, which focuses on businesses in the food and agricultural markets, is opening new offices in Sibley Square above the RIT City Art Space.
He hopes that the SPAS renovation and the spirit of collaboration it brings will also inspire a new generation of RIT students.
“I hope the new facilities motivate someone to choose the photography school here at RIT, as the programs, facilities and teachers are top notch,” Wright said. “I want the facilities to do the same for students as they did for me when I visited campus years ago.”
Jokl accepted. “These new spaces create the most advanced and functional capabilities for our programs,” he said. “Launching an initiative as ambitious as this requires a vision and we are grateful for Chance’s generosity and leadership in launching this vision.”