Meaningful projects are the result of great partnerships, a fact illustrated in the ongoing joint venture between Alameda, California-based architecture and design firm, MBH Architects, and non-profit children’s charity Good Tidings Foundation. The two civic-minded organizations recently partnered to give back to the Colorado Springs community through their new project, LeRoy Neiman Art Studio at Colorado School of the Deaf and Blind—their 17th joint venture.
Named after the American artist renowned for his colorful and energetic paintings, MBH was scoped with the interior design of the new 1,000-square-foot art studio with the goal of assisting deaf and blind students explore their art skills in a creative, visually uplifting environment. The unique classroom will provide art education for students ranging from elementary to high school age, facilitating classes on painting, drawing, ceramics and sculpture.
Early design meetings held over Zoom with Good Tidings founder Larry Harper, Tiffany Stahl and McQella Adams of the U.S. Olympic and Paralympic Museum, Tara Zabor of the LeRoy Nieman and Janet Byrne Nieman Foundation, and art teacher Lauren Waldorf, who understood both the day-to-day uses of the studio and student needs, revealed that flexibility in the space was key.
“[Lauren] wanted tables that could be stowed away. She wanted opportunities to rearrange the room depending on the activity,” recalled Tammy Ng, LEED AP BD˖C, project manager and associate at MBH Architects. “The tables might be cleared away so that there is space for a large art project on the floor one day, or for easels to be set up for a painting session on another day, or even for a gallery event where the student’s artwork can be displayed.”
Winter Olympic Inspiration
Given its location in Colorado Springs—the home of the winter Olympics—and its close proximity to the U.S. Paralympic Museum, sporting motifs referencing the Winter Olympic games and skiing are found throughout. Learning to ski is an important activity for the students at the Colorado School for the Deaf and Blind, and in fact, the school has been collaborating with Foresight Ski Guides, another non-profit organization, to teach their blind students how to ski. Similarly, Neiman was the official artist of five Olympic Games, spanning from 1972 to 2010.
Upon entering the art studio, students pass through a short hall where they place their belongings and find their aprons from the wall-mounted upcycled ski coat racks. As students prepare for their art class, three murals of Olympic skiers come into view—one large mural on the wall, and two others adhered to the doors of new storage cabinets.
“Lauren also suggested adding 3D objects and texture to the murals so that her blind students are able to touch [them],” Ng said. “At the mural where the skier looked like it was heading straight towards you, skis and ski poles were added to make the image appear to pop out of the wall. Textures on the mural helped students visualize the mural.”
The “Pottery Corner” provides a space for creating three-dimensional artworks and includes two new wedging tables and a glazing table. At the center of the room, uniquely shaped nesting tables from Muzo accommodate the various communication needs of the studio. Also, with COVID-19 in mind, MBH sought to specify easy-to-clean surfaces throughout the art studio. Similarly, the furniture allows flexible layout configurations, able to be arranged to maintain six feet of separation.
To celebrate the artist’s story and interest in the subject matter, MBH incorporated signature LeRoy hand-splattered paint to decorate the floor—a nod to LeRoy’s personal art studio in New York City.
The project is one that MBH takes great pride in because it supports the mission of Good Tidings to inspire youth through art, music, sports, and scholarship programs and aligns with the firm’s commitment to improve local communities.
“Social impact has been a priority of the firm since its first day,” Ng said. “From company-wide volunteer days to celebrate MBH’s anniversary, to fundraisers including toy drives, bake sales and can drives, to an annual local beach clean-up event, MBH Architects finds ways to give back to the community. It is one of the reasons why we at MBH love what we do every day.”