Arts at the Annex

The Jordan College Annex stands at the corner of Boulevard and 52nd. All of the art in the JCA is created by students at Butler. Photos by Lauren Hough.

LEAH OLLIE | STAFF REPORTER | lollie@butler.edu

An industrial warehouse-style building with exposed ceilings, beanbags and artwork to liven the white walls, the Jordan College Annex has only recently entered the full command of the art department at Butler University. A local dance company previously split the space with the university leaving a lasting impact visible in the discarded barres, mirrors and marley floor panels that litter the studio classrooms. 

Whether an incoming recruit or experienced senior, students who enter the Annex are immediately welcomed by its intimacy and openness. 

The Annex remains one of the many places on campus that students can study the visual arts, as well as observe student work within the art department. Campus community members could find it easy to miss this venue — tucked between Apartment Village and the Davey Athletic Complex — in which a home for exploration and innovation is cultivated, according to those in the art department. 

Dr. Peter Wang, an art department faculty member of four years, hopes that the campus community will come to see this space and appreciate the work being brought forth from it. 

“We want to make ourselves visible in the Annex,” Wang said. “JCA is not just the performing arts, but also made up of visual arts. We want students to feel a second sense of home here in the Annex, since many are introduced to the program in this space.” 

Adam Greenlee, a sophomore art and design major, has experienced the Annex as an unexpected hub for student creativity and a hidden gem on campus that he thinks others should engage with to learn more about the art department. 

“It’s kind of this crappy, rundown little building that, in my opinion, some of the most creative students on campus come and do their work,” Greenlee said. “You wouldn’t think of this as ‘the art studio’ when you see it from the outside, but I think what we’ve been able to do with the space is pretty spectacular. Every time you come in, you’re going to see something really special from our wonderful group of students.”

This distinction separates the Annex from the pretense of posing as a professional gallery space, and establishes it as a center for student work. 

Four large main classrooms make up the suites of most formal instruction that occurs in the building, which ranges from major specific electives to PCA credits — a creative component of Butler’s core curriculum for undergraduate students. 

“We often have non-art major students take their PCA credits here,” Wang said. “We try to introduce them to the program here first, and we get many recruits in this way. For those interested in new paths here in the department, we want to be there to help them grow and flourish.”

Kitchen amenities and study areas in the main hallway provide an open resource for quick meals in between classes or during late night work sessions.

“Many people strategically schedule their classes in the Annex around meals,” Wang said. “All these [amenities] help the students make the space their own.”

Communal spaces on campus can be crucial to team building and social connections, a benefit that JCA students have accepted in full. When distanced from other academic buildings on campus as the Annex is, maintaining an environment conducive to studying and long periods of work is ideal.

Greenlee said that the welcoming measures of Wang and other faculty make the space even more welcoming. 

“One of the first days of class in the fall, Dr. Peter Wang was so excited about the beanbags in the main hallway,” Greenlee said. “What we’re trying to build is a more creative environment out of this space, and it’s already growing. It’s been really nice to have a space where I can work on projects and store my stuff, and myself and some of my fellow students have been able to kind of make it into a home.”

Olivia Heinecke, a senior art and design major, has appreciated the art department and the Annex as a safe space where her talent is encouraged and exhibited. 

“I don’t even know how to describe it,” Heinecke said. “I’m both pre-med and an art major, so [the Annex] is like my safe space outside of the STEM world. It’s this nice little cozy space where we all meet, and I don’t know if this gets miscommunicated, but it honestly is for anyone who wants to come and hang out or just look at stuff we have hung up all year round.”

Heinecke’s work is currently displayed in the front gallery of the Annex, a testament to the consistent display of student work. Showcases for student work are organized each semester, as well as a variety of guest shows from visiting lecturers and artists in the Indianapolis area.

Opening accessible pathways to art education for students — who otherwise would not have considered it — is a unique aspect that Butler’s art department presents to the campus community.

“Art history is an integral part of art as a whole because it is interdisciplinary,” Wang said. “We work with many other departments and fields in these paths, such as history, anthropology, English, classics and more. This is the beauty of liberal arts: an intellectual exchange from different backgrounds and perspectives. In all of those, we still have art.”

To stay up to date on what’s happening in Butler’s art department, visit their Instagram page @artatbutleru.

Artwork in first and second photos by Olivia Heinecke.

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