Students Help Repurpose Downtown Arts Village

Students Help Repurpose Downtown Arts Village

An Orlando church has faith that students in UCF’s Advanced Design Lab can help spur the genesis of a new downtown arts complex.

Park Lake Presbyterian Church enlisted the help of the ADLab – a program that takes art out of the classroom and into the workplace – to help turn the 1955 Davis Park Motel into a vibrant hub for visual, music and performance arts.

“It’s something Orlando has always talked about having but has never been able to pull off,” said Rob Reedy, a professor in the School of Visual Arts & Design.

Thirty teams of students will display their renovation designs to the public 7 to 9 p.m. Friday, April 20, at the church, 309 E. Colonial Drive, which is across the street from the arts village. The winning design, as chosen by a team of judges including the city’s economic development director, will be announced at 7:30 p.m.

The small motel, at 221 E. Colonial Drive, was an overnight stop along what was once the city’s major east-west highway, State Road 50. After the business started experiencing hard times the church purchased the property in 2002, and then three years ago the motel management company left.

The church considered several options for the property before the pastors suggested the arts village as a mission outreach. The church’s website calls it “a place where the faith community and local artists can work together to share their gifts of inspiration, beauty, and spiritual expression to promote peace, understanding, and well-being in the larger community.”

Will Benton, the church organist, also serves as executive director of what is now called Faith Arts Village Orlando, which started gaining steam last year. The motel rooms now have some studios for artists, and the village participates in the downtown Third Thursdays arts events to showcase works.

He said they also have talked about having “studio spaces for artists to possibly live and work here. To have a place for people to come and share their talents. A garden to relax and a place to hold events.”

Enter the ADLab.

Reedy met Benton at one of the village’s art events. They started talking about the possibilities, and the idea evolved to have UCF’s 3D Design students take on a project to propose renovations for the motel. The course’s final component involves students working in an interdisciplinary atmosphere with a real-world client experience.

The rebranding competition was created by Reedy along with professor Deborah Starr-Leitch and Melissa Bush, a graduate teaching associate and instructor.

“My mission is to create a bunch of seniors that when they graduate are like gladiators – they’re armored and prepared for anything that comes their way,” Reedy said.

Reedy said the students came up with ideas such as a portable band shell that can be taken down and stored, which he had never seen before, a master suite for well-known artists-in-residence to temporarily stay in, and a new entrance framed with an oversized paintbrush, book and guitar.

“Some of them are more true to the architecture, a 1950s retro look,” he said of the structure that has been painted a golden yellow with cobalt blue accents. “Others are expanding things and contracting things.”

Benton said Faith Arts Village is committed to carrying out the winning plan, which may be a faith decision all of its own without knowing now what design will be chosen.

But whatever plan is selected, the project is worthwhile for students, Reedy said.

“These are projects that mean something other than just academic information,” he said. “They’re client-driven and there are other influences and demands. This reinforces the kinds of things like deadlines, craftsmanship, quality of work and ‘no excuses.’ This establishes a learning environment that prepares students for what they’re going to walk into when they graduate.”