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Bo Bartlett Center, designed by Olson Kundig, to open in late 2017
Architectural renderings courtesy of Olson Kundig.

COLUMBUS, GA.- A former cotton warehouse on the banks of the Chattahoochee River, transformed by Tom Kundig, of the internationally renowned architecture firm Olson Kundig, will be unveiled as the Bo Bartlett Center in late 2017. Part of the RiverPark campus of Columbus State University (CSU) in Columbus, Georgia, the center will encompass 18,425-square-feet of gallery, archive and multidisciplinary programming spaces. This vibrant addition to the Southeast’s visual arts community is named after James “Bo” Bartlett III (born 1955, Columbus, Georgia), who is recognized as one of the leading figurative painters of his generation. Construction on the project begins August 2016.

A unique partnership between a living mid-career artist and a state university, the center will house more than 300 paintings and drawings of Bartlett’s, as well as his complete archive of sketch books, correspondence, journals, recordings, photographs, artistic notes, memorabilia, objects and objets d’art.

As part of the College of the Arts at CSU, the Bartlett Center will serve as a catalyst for arts collaboration across the campus and around the country, with a full scope of exhibitions and programs that will encourage experimentation and bridge art forms, including music, dance, theater, film and visual art. As a Distinguished Visiting Professor of Art, Bartlett will conduct annual workshops at the center. A rotating exhibitions gallery will feature the work of visiting American artists of national and international acclaim, who will also teach master classes. In addition, the center will offer a full range of educational outreach and programming for the surrounding region, with a particular focus on providing access to art training and the development of creativity for traditionally underserved communities.

Admission to the center will be free.

“The mission of the Bo Bartlett Center is to explore creativity and learning within the context of the work and studio practice of this supremely talented and generous native son, Bo Bartlett,” said David Houston, Executive Director of the Bo Bartlett Center. “This center of creativity and experiential learning is based on a holistic approach to art and life that embraces the foundational role creativity plays in our everyday experience.”

The interior renovation of the repurposed building will feature four galleries with sliding and pivoting walls for dynamic spatial flexibility and adaptability; grand lobby; interactive research center; storage and archive space for Bartlett’s work; and office and reception areas. Soaring 23-foot-high ceilings in the main gallery will accommodate Bartlett’s large-scale works. A large skylight that runs the length of the building will introduce natural daylight throughout the space.

Olson Kundig is a Seattle-based design practice dedicated to the idea that buildings can serve as a bridge between nature, culture and people. The architecture team is led by Tom Kundig, design principal, and project managers Edward Lalonde and Angus MacGregor.

“As an adaptive reuse project, the Bo Bartlett Center represented a wonderful opportunity to reinforce how natural, creative and inspiring surroundings can have a positive effect on people’s lives,” said Tom Kundig, principal and owner of Olson Kundig.

Bartlett’s vision reflects his upbringing in a small southern town, where storytelling was an important part of life and tradition, and his complex mural-scale figurative paintings are deeply laden with personal history. His style and approach can be understood in the tradition of such noted American artists as Thomas Eakins, Winslow Homer, Edward Hopper, Norman Rockwell and three generations of the Wyeth family. Bartlett’s work has been acquired by numerous private and public collections, including Crystal Bridges of American Art, Denver Art Museum, Santa Barbara Museum of Art and the Seattle Art Museum. Bartlett lives and works in Columbus, Georgia, and Wheaton Island, Maine.

“I am honored to partner with Columbus State University,” said the artist. “I am particularly thrilled about our plans to reach out to young people, who perhaps haven’t had the opportunity to unlock their creativity and realize their potential. There was nothing like this when I was growing up in Columbus. But now that I am back in my hometown, I can’t think of a better way to give back.”

CSU is building a national and international reputation in the arts, especially with the development of its RiverPark campus in downtown Columbus, Georgia. This thriving cultural district includes the Riverside Theatre Complex, Corn Center for the Visual Arts and the RiverCenter for the Performing Arts, a state-of-the-art performing arts complex that houses the Joyce and Henry Schwob School of Music.

“The establishment of the Bo Bartlett Center underlines CSU’s ongoing commitment to and excellence in the arts and its conviction that creativity is a powerful catalyst for innovation and advancement in the 21st century and beyond,” said Richard Baxter, Dean of the College of the Arts at CSU.

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