While many may have visited the Northbank Center’s Grand Ballroom for a wedding, not many have explored the rest of the building, and are unknowing of the upper floors that host UM-Flint classes. The 11th floor is mainly used by art students and has been undergoing renovations for the past few years. Formerly the Northbank Club, a health and wellness club that closed over 20 years ago, the space used to have a hot tub, gym, sauna, and track.
Today, only the track remains. However, the large gymnasium-like room is still put to use by art students studying drawing and printmaking. Slowly, renovations are being made to make use of all the space the 11th floor has to offer. The most recent renovation that has happened was the creation of a video production studio. The studio resides in what was formerly the men’s locker-room, which, until recently, had been abandoned and fell into disrepair.
The studio was created by the collaboration of ITS, the Engineering Department, and Faculties and Operations for the Office of Extended Learning. It will be used by faculty and staff to help them produce better video content for their online classes.
“The goal is to work with faculty to help them make video content mainly for their online classes,” said Carson Waites, a faculty member who worked on the project.
The new studio has a variety of video production equipment including a green screen, a teleprompter, a professional camera setup, and a lightboard. According to the university’s website, the lightboard, “will help faculty demonstrate complex lessons and increase their presence in the online environment.”
The lightboard will allow professors to show equations or text without having to turn their backs to the camera in order to write on a white board.
The Northbank Club was closed when, “the hot tub leaked on the floor below us (the 10th) which was occupied by a law firm at that time,” said Alla Dubrovich, a lecturer at the university.
Dubrovich teaches Art 131, Art 132, and Art 359. Her classroom, as well as the printmaking class, sit on what use to be the old gym, which has been re-purposed as two separate studios for the classes. Dubrovich explains that the 11th floor is constantly being renovated and changed to make use of all the space it has to offer.
“Little by little the space is being shaped into great studio space for two art areas: drawing and printmaking,” said Dubrovich.
New lighting, windows, and better ventilation have all been installed to tailor the space toward the needs of art students. The room that formally housed a sauna has been re-purposed into a dark room. And while the space is being still being modernized and updated, Dubrovich still has two concerns: air-conditioning and window covering.
“It is very hard to stay and work there when the temperature outside is above 80 degrees,” said Dubrovich.
Due to the high ceilings and large windows, the sun often gives the space a “greenhouse effect,” heating it up very quickly. Not only would window covers help damper the light, but it would also keep the lighting consistent, “for (in the) drawing process it is important to keep consistent light,” said Dubroich. “Light often falls on drawings themselves and bother(s) people’s eyes.”
She acknowledges that the issues are difficult to find solutions to, as the window coverings would be a fire hazard and the air conditioning would be costly.
“I do hope though that our studios will continue to develop as a professionally organized space,” said Dubrovich.