Roberson/BCC partnership seen as win-win arrangement

Administrators from Broome Community College and the Roberson Museum and Science Center say their newly expanded partnership is the ideal way to support both institutions’ missions to become more vitally involved in the community. Patti Evans, program coordinator of BCC’s Art and Design program, and Terry McDonald, Roberson’s executive director, are equally enthusiastic over a successful start to a fall semester in which an estimated 30 percent of BCC’s Art and Design classes are being taught at the museum in Binghamton.

For several years, BCC has offered drawing classes on the second floor of the Roberson Education Center, located in the Carriage House behind the museum. BCC also used the Clayworks pottery studio on the lower level of the Carriage House and a printmaking facility in the mansion. Now BCC is leasing the entire Carriage House, and its “bigger, better” printmaking operation has moved there, Evans said, praising McDonald and her staff for a smooth transition. Most of the classroom equipment – including “wonderful new technology” – has been installed, Evans added.

A dozen or so sections of drawing, printmaking, 2-D and 3-D design, illustration and art history are being taught at Roberson, each with probably 15 students, Evans said, when asked to estimate BCC’s use of the Carriage House.  All other Art and Design classes remain at the Art Annex on BCC’s  Town of Dickinson campus.  The Annex, Evans said, remains fully utilized, but isn’t overcrowded and overbooked as in the past. Classrooms no longer are filled back-to-back with classes, leaving students no time or place for working on projects. An added bonus: The transition allowed Art and Design to give the annex a long-overdue cleaning, she said.

BCC has a two-year, year-round lease, McDonald said, so the Carriage House no longer will be available to Roberson as a display or event space. BCC students are at the building from 9 a.m. to 8 p.m., she said. Currently, all of the courses offered at Roberson are for academic credit, McDonald said – no community education programs — although auditing a for-credit class would be permitted. In fact, McDonald, who is teaching an architectural history survey course there, said she would be glad to have someone sit in on her lectures.

In August, when he announced the leasing plan, BCC President Kevin Drumm expressed excitement that BCC, like Binghamton University, would be getting more involved downtown and was quoted as saying community partnerships such as this are a BCC priority. It is a sentiment echoed by both Evans, who referred to the Carriage House as a “satellite campus,” and McDonald, who described the college and the museum as having, not only a financial and spacial connection but a personal connection.

“This is their downtown experience,” she said of the students. “They’ve heard about Roberson through the First Friday Art Walk and now they are part of it.”

But BCC and Roberson want students to be spending time in more than just the Carriage House. “There are many ways to learn — colleges and museums are two good ways — and we’re always looking for new and different ways for our students to learn. Everything doesn’t happen in the classroom,” Drumm said.

Student involvement with the museum is being enhanced by a Visions Federal Credit Union sponsorship that significantly reduces admission from $6 to $2 for BCC students. The annual student art show will move to Roberson, and class-required art supplies will be sold at Roberson’s gift shop – yet another way to bring students into the main museum. As McDonald put it during the August announcement, “Getting (students) in the education center is a wonderful thing, but what we also want to do is bring them into the mansion and the museum itself. … We’ve got a wonderful museum and a real vision to make it a hub of community activity.”

Of course, if 30 Front St., Binghamton, becomes the hub of so much activity, where will everybody park?, BAMirror asked McDonald.  Will there be a problem when BCC is in session and Roberson has a special event?

Accommodations could be made, she assured, adding that such a situation would be a “wonderful problem.”

Barb Van Atta, BAM Editor

Are you a BCC-at-Roberson student (or wish you could be)? Please join in the conversation about this venture.

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