Caine College of the Arts Engages Students in Design

The Caine School of the Arts at Utah State University was first established in 2005. It became the Caine College of the Arts in 2010, with its own dean, Dr. Craig Jessop, and recognized degree programs for students in the design, theater, and music arts. Today the college is well known not only for its student body but also for the architecture that comprises the college campus. Sparano + Mooney Architecture is thrilled to be part of a campus-wide renovation project that will completely transform the Caine College of the Arts.

As a modern design firm based in California and Utah and specializing in contemporary architecture, we were immediately challenged by the opportunities Caine represents. But, upon meeting with school administration, it was decided we would not go into the project with a developed vision of our own. Rather, we would design the renovation around the needs and desires of faculty and students.

Such an approach to architecture is rare. It is not unusual for a firm like Sparano + Mooney Architecture to work with a small handful of individuals to come up with design plans, but to stretch that to hundreds of students and faculty is an entirely different matter. Yet we are committed to making sure their individual voices are heard. Not everyone will get everything they want, but we are doing our best to design new spaces that will best meet the needs of the majority of those who will actually use them.

Meeting with Students and Faculty

We began the design process last spring by holding a series of meetings to which we invited both faculty and students. The meetings were conducted as workshops, giving attendees an opportunity to express what they were hoping to see realized with the project. For example, there was a lot of concern about a lack of practice space for students. We will address that and many other spatial requirements through the expansion of the Fine Arts Complex.

The first phase of the renovation project is expected to last about 18 months, with completion in mid-2017. We have already seen significant progress on the addition and renovation of the Scene Shop, improvements to the Morgan Theater, and the interior transformation of the Kent Concert Hall. Much of our effort for 2016 will be concentrated on finishing up the Scene Shop and renovating the Tippets Gallery and some exterior courtyard areas. Overall, we believe the project is progressing nicely thanks to plenty of input from the University leadership, the faculty and students.

Looking to Future Generations

During our workshop discussions, we have heard plenty of great ideas about how the Fine Arts Complex could be improved, structurally and aesthetically. We heard lots of ideas about classroom space, creating more access to natural light, renovating performance space to be more inviting to patrons, and so on. But we were most impressed by the realization that so many students and faculty were as concerned about the future of the college as they are the present.

It is understood that a transformation of this nature might happen only once every few decades. The students and faculty at the Caine College of the Arts realize that the renovations done today will affect students for 20, 30, and even 40 years down the road. Those future generations of students should have campus facilities that enhance the learning atmosphere in both form and function. That is what we are striving for in this renovation.

Sparano + Mooney Architecture is a leading modern design firm in Utah and California that has had the privilege of working on some very exciting cultural projects. The project at the Caine College of the Arts has been, and continues to be, one of the most inspiring we have been involved with – thanks to the participation of the college leadership, and its students and faculty.


1.      Utah Statesman –