October 3, 2008 — With standing room only in Ruffin Gallery, University of Virginia faculty, students, administrators, the Board of Visitors and friends gathered on Thursday to dedicate Ruffin Hall, the new home of studio art. It is the first new building to be constructed on the Arts Grounds since the Drama Department Building opened in 1974.
In his opening remarks, U.Va. President John T. Casteen III praised the work of all those involved in bringing the project to reality. The $25.9 million, 42,000-square-foot facility was financed with state and private support, including a $5 million leadership gift from the Peter B. and Adeline W. Ruffin Foundation. The building is named in honor of the U.Va. College of Arts & Sciences alumnus and his wife. This joint funding "symbolically goes back to the University's beginnings," Casteen said, referring to Thomas Jefferson's model of combining state and private support to create the University.
Studio art faculty worked closely with Schwartz/Silver Architects to plan the building. "That's one of the reasons for the success of the design," Casteen said. "It is purpose-built and it reflects that."
Ruffin Hall was conceived of as a village of workshops devoted to the teaching of drawing, painting, sculpture, printmaking, photography, new media and film, installation and performance art. Larry Goedde, chairman of the McIntire Department of Art, commented on the transformation Ruffin Hall brings to both curriculum and the sharing of ideas.
"The grand, soaring spaces, dramatic views and vistas inside and out, and the up-to-date facilities support and encourage hard work and the freedom to imagine, both crucial to artistic creativity," Goedde said. "The building is already functioning as faculty had planned and hoped, bringing the entire studio program together for the first time in 35 years and fostering a new sense of an artistic community of students and faculty learning and working together."
In her remarks to the gathering, Vice Provost Elizabeth Hutton Turner painted a vision for future expansion of the arts at U.Va. that would include an addition to the Drama Building and a new music building cascading down Carr's Hill, then across Emmet Street where new buildings for the U.Va. Art Museum and a performance venue will be located.
She talked about the place of Ruffin Hall in that vision. "With the establishment of this community of artists in these teaching workshops and exhibit spaces, we have put in place another important component of our vision for the arts at U.Va. Here we are looking to foster and increase both physical and programmatic access to the arts for everyone."
Meredith Jung-En Woo, dean of the College of Arts & Sciences, praised the contribution Ruffin Hall brings to the enrichment of students' creative lives. "The opening of Ruffin Hall represents tangibly the College's broad dedication to the full breadth of academic inquiry — ranging from the sciences on the other side of Grounds, sweeping across the Lawn through the humanities, and reaching here to the arts, clustered on Carr's Hill.
"I am excited about how this spectacular building — and the artistic collaboration among students and faculty now filling its studios and galleries — supports such a core goal for the College: excellence in the fine and performing arts."
Woo praised the creation of Ruffin Hall and the recent renovation of Fayerweather Hall as a "great start" in reinvigorating the arts at U.Va. "Today the artistic richness of the University has taken an important step forward through this investment in the McIntire Department of Art."
Casteen and Ruffin Foundation trustees Mary Beth and Brian McAnaney unveiled a plaque dedicating the building to the memory and generosity of Peter B. Ruffin and Adeline Ruffin. Peter Ruffin was an undergraduate at the University in the mid-1920s. He was a sponsor trustee of the Darden Graduate School of Business from 1964 until 1973 and a trustee emeritus until his death in 1980. The Ruffins were charter members of the Lawn Society, which recognizes the University's most generous benefactors.
Following the formal remarks, guests enjoyed a tour of the building and a reception on the second-floor terrace looking out to the Blue Ridge Mountains.