Renovations for Oscar Ritchie on Track

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In late January, more than 25 faculty, staff and students toured the latest, in-progress renovations of Oscar Ritchie Hall, part of the university’s effort to create excellent facilities for its stakeholders. Built in 1947 and named in honor of the first African-American professor employed in Ohio’s system of higher education, Oscar Ritchie Hall houses the Department of Pan-African Studies and affiliated student organizations, the Uumbaji art gallery, the Center for Pan-African Culture, the African Community Theatre and the Institute for African-American Affairs.

Dr. Francis Dorsey, interim chair for the Department of Pan-African Studies, leads visitors on a tour of the renovations at Oscar Ritchie Hall.
Photo by Gary Harwood

Dr. Francis Dorsey, interim chair for the Department of Pan-African Studies, leads visitors on a tour of the renovations at Oscar Ritchie Hall.

While the African Community Theatre, which is housed in Oscar Ritchie, was renovated approximately 10 years ago, this is the first total renovation of the building since its conception. “This is one of the oldest buildings on campus, so the renovation is long overdue,” says Dr. Francis Dorsey, interim chair for the Department of Pan-African Studies.

Dorsey, along with Beth Ruffing, assistant director of capital design and construction for the Office of the University Architect, led the hour-long tour through the three-level building. “This building will have state-of-the-art technology,” says Ruffing, who helped lead the $10.4 million, two-year renovation project.

At its completion, Oscar Ritchie Hall will provide new faculty offices; a faculty commons area including a workroom, kitchenette and lounge; an updated computer laboratory; a resource center with library materials and audio visual capabilities; a multipurpose room; student lounge areas, including a student organization commons; and flat-panel television screens in hallways to showcase artwork and provide updates to students. A main office area on the ground floor will house advising for the department, the Center f or Pan-African Culture, the Institute for African-American Affairs and Uhuru. While the African Community Theatre was not renovated, additional entranceways were added as well as a theatre office, green room for actors and a canopy outside the rear entrance to the theatre.

In addition, five new classrooms and a large lecture hall each will be equipped with teaching centers that include a DVD, CD and VCR player; computer and document camera. The entire building will have wireless Internet access. At the lower level, three new classrooms and gallery/study space have newly added window wells, a huge improvement that allows natural light into the rooms. “It’s really nice that we won’t be sitting in the dark and feel so enclosed,” says Dorsey.

The Uumbaji art gallery, which will have space in the building’s hallways to showcase artwork, will have a glass front wall, student lounge and study area, storage space, a visiting artist’s studio and a photo laboratory. In addition, a security system will be installed in the building to safeguard exhibited artwork and audiovisual equipment.

Prior to its renovation, Oscar Ritchie Hall was famous across campus for its original artwork hanging in classrooms and colorful paintings in its hallways. “We had all of the artwork documented by a professional photographer, so that we have digital images which can be reproduced full size,” says Ruffing. Additionally, the department hopes to use the images to produce posters, calendars, t-shirts and other items for sale to support its various cultural programs.

While all classroom art was saved, artwork in the hallways, which was on plaster, was not able to be preserved. But thanks to the Percent for Art law, $104,000 has been set aside specifically to preserve and refurbish existing artwork from the building. Additional fundraising and grants will be needed to complete restoration of all of the artwork.

“Not only will our department benefit, but Oscar Ritchie Hall will be a showpiece for the entire university,” says Dorsey.

The Department of Pan-African Studies plans to move back home this summer in early August.

By Melissa Edler

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