Alexis Hall Studio Space

One of the many work stations in the Alexis Studio sits empty, waiting for an artist. Photo by Jesus Trujillo.

Alexis Hall is one of the lesser known buildings on the SFUAD campus. Tucked between Benildus and the DFC, Alexis houses the Writing Center, a handful of computer labs and few quiet rooms to get work done. Hiding upstairs, however, is an open space designated for Studio Arts students. Paint splatters the concrete floor, light flows in through the wide windows and the wall down the middle serves as a means to unite rather than divide. Since the TV series Manhattan first came to campus four years ago and took over the barracks, which had previously provided studio space for the Studio Arts department, Alexis has been a zone of creativity. “When we got that space, I think, as artists, we kind of felt like it was the most industrial space on this campus. It was an open, concrete floor — it just sort of has more of a rough look, which is actually something that, in Santa Fe, you don’t find a lot of because we’re not really an urban center in that sense,” Dean of the School of Visual and Communication Arts Linda Swanson says.

Leah Naxon, a Studio Arts major, adds on to a work in progress. Photo by Jesus Trujillo

The space is split in half by a wall down the middle, but the department has made the most of the obstruction. “What you see on the one side is a nice, big, open studio for beginning painters because they’re usually working on one project together,” Swanson says. “And on the other side [advanced students] kind of divide it up into studios because they’re usually working on projects that are more self-initiated.” The cubicle-like spaces on the left are already scattered with paintings and easels, but by finals they will be full of bright colors and harried students finishing their major projects. Leah Naxon, a Studio Arts junior, has spent a lot of time working on her own projects in Alexis. “It feels like a real environment that you should paint in,” she says. “There’s too many other things going on in your home so things can get clouded, whereas this is an art-only space.”

The classes taught in Alexis range from Beginning Painting to Portrait Painting to Scale in Practice. Sarah Stolar, a Studio Arts professor, teaches her Color and Technique course on Monday and Wednesday afternoons in Alexis. This week, a still-life model is set up in the middle of the room to the right of the wall and students are clustered around with easel and brush. Soft indie music bounces off the concrete as the students focus diligently on matching colors and shadows. “We have a nice big space that we can divide between me and David Leigh’s upper division classes,” Stolar says, “and I love the fact that they’re joined so we can see what’s going on over there on that side of the room and they can see what we’re doing. The students get inspired from each other across courses.”

Studio Arts major Marilyn Marquis stands next to her work before cleaning up. Photo by Jesus Trujillo

One of her students, Marilyn Marquis, is in her second year at SFUAD but her second semester as a Studio Arts major and she appreciates the creative space offered by Alexis as well. “The biggest thing for me is that sense of community and also being able to ask each other questions since I’m really new,” Marquis says. “Just seeing how other people do stuff and then maybe tweaking that to add that to your work.”