Art proves to be a constant despite the continually changing landscape of Simmons’ campus

As the One Simmons project nears completion, the familiarity of the university’s art collection could be used as a tool to integrate the One Simmons Project highrise into the current campus.

Sarah Granoff and Emma Larkin

As the Simmons campus continues to evolve and the One Simmons project moves into its next phase, one element of the Simmons landscape will stay the same–the University’s art collection.

One Simmons, which was announced in the spring of 2019, is the largest real estate project that Simmons has ever undergone. Laura Brink Pisinski, the Vice President of Real Estate and Facilities Management, stated that the second stage of renovations has already been completed, which has included new study spaces, a completely renovated library, and a state-of-the-art nursing simulation lab. 

Students have had positive things to say about the new and improved study spaces that were made available to them at the beginning of this 2022 Fall semester. “I like the new library a lot. It’s nice to finally have a quiet space to work on campus after having to find alternative study spaces all last year” said Perry Cohan-Smith, a senior Social Work major at Simmons. 

Brink Pisinski said that the ultimate goal of this project “is to create a community where the students, facility, and staff are all interacting and creating this ‘One Simmons,’ and to put the students at the center of this experience.” 

The last phase of the project will be the construction of a highrise building, called the Living and Learning Center, which will be 21 stories high and include all the University’s dining, athletics, offices, gathering spaces, and dorms. 

Some major upgrades will include elevators, air conditioning, new carpeting, and LED lighting. 

As the One Simmons project nears completion, the familiarity of the university’s art collection could be used as a tool to integrate the One Simmons Project highrise into the current campus. “When I first started at Simmons, the art on the walls kept me engaged with the school,” said Skylar Chase, a senior double majoring in Arts Administration and Graphic Design. 

Chase also commented that there is room for improvement with the artwork around campus. The current artwork should have “a higher standard of engagement rather than just as decoration,” said Chase. 

Chase said that she would like to see more student artwork and that an emphasis on student artwork should extend into the art included in the upcoming One Simmons highrise. 

Helen Popinchalk, a professor in the Department of Art and Music, Director of the Trustman Art Gallery, and the curator of the university’s art collection, commented that her role at Simmons feels more like “stewardship” rather than just education and curation. 

Popinchalk said that the university’s art collection holds roughly 1,500 objects, according to her recent cataloging of the collection. 

Professor Popinchalk spoke about her process for selecting pieces of artwork from the collection to hang on campus. The curator emphasized that her method prioritizes diversifying the art collection as well as integrating art into existing spaces in a way that will enhance those locations. 

“How can this [space] become something greater than it already is?” said Popinchalk. 

Popinchalk highlighted a painting by Mia Cross, entitled “The Painted Place,” as a piece that represents her professional goal of diversifying Simmons’ art collection. “The Painted Place was installed at the end of the spring 2022 semester and is located on the landing of the second floor of the Main College Building. 

According to Popinchalk, when work on the One Simmons Project began in the fall of 2021, she helped to uninstall the artwork in buildings going under construction and then helped to reinstall them once those buildings were ready to re-open.

Popinchalk said that she hopes the future of artwork on campus after the completion of the One Simmons Project will include new, site-specific artworks and the integration of pieces from the university’s existing collection in the One Simmons highrise. 

Brink Pisinski plans to renew a collaboration with Professor Popinchalk in order to put artwork into the Living and Learning Center (LLC) before it opens to students. 

Brink Pisinski said she envisions the integration of pieces from Simmons’ art collection into the lower five floors of the LLC as well as the inclusion of site-specific student artworks that rotates on a regular basis. “The more we can make the LLC feel like the Students’ space, the better,” said Brink Pisinski.

Brink Pisinski estimates that the Living and Learning Center and art installation will be finished by fall 2026.