Council of Independent Colleges Historic Campus Architecture Project


Clack Art Center

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Institution Name: Alma College
Original/Historic Place Name: Memorial Gymnasium
Location on Campus: campus center, northwest corner of McIntyre Mall
Date(s) of Construction and Designer(s):
1922-1923original construction Perkins, Fellows & Hamilton
1970-1971renovation Unknown
Type of Place: Individual building
Style(s): (Glossary)
Foundation: cement slab
Walls: dark red brick (with Flemish bond binding); white stone (trim)
Roof: red clay tile
ca. 1923-1968gymnasium
1971-present (2007)museum (Flora Kirsch Beck Gallery)
1971-present (2007)academic department building (Center for the Instruction of Art and Design)

Significance: architecture, education, history
Landmark designation:
Narrative: see below
References: see below

Clack Art Center was originally constructed in 1922-1923 as a memorial to World War I veterans from the College and from Gratiot County. As Memorial Gymnasium, it served for 45 years as the center of the College's physical education and athletic activities. After completion of the new Physical Education Center in 1968, it was completely renovated for use as an art center.

When completed in 1923, Memorial Gymnasium's bleachers provided seating for 800 spectators. When used as an auditorium, with folding chairs on the floor, it could accommodate 950. Along the north and south sides of the building were dressing rooms for men on one side and for women on the other. Also in these areas were offices for the directors of men's and women's athletics.

The innovative 1970-1971 renovation converted the building to an exceptionally fine facility for the instruction of art. The project, which included an addition on the east end of the building and the construction of a mezzanine level and smaller loft area in the former one-story gymnasium, provided an additional 50 percent of floor space. The art center includes a sculpture studio with adjacent wood working, metal working, and plaster rooms; a ceramics studio with adjacent kiln room; a photography studio and darkroom; four studios for painting, drawing, and design; rooms for printing and printmaking; faculty offices; an art education classroom; a small auditorium with a surrounding gallery; the Flora Kirsch Beck Gallery; and an outdoor work and display court.

The art center is named in honor of Dr. and Mrs. Robert Clack, and in memory of Mr. and Mrs. Hugh L. Clack and their four children, who died in a plane crash in 1957. Robert Clack, registrar and professor at Alma from 1924 to 1954, was Hugh's father, and Hugh and his wife, the former Ann Carter, were Alma alumni. An estate contingency clause in the will of Hugh and Ann Clack provided nearly a quarter of the funds needed for the project.

The gallery is named in honor of Flora Kirsch Beck, a trustee of the College from 1959 until her death in 1992. Mrs. Beck served simultaneously with her daughter, Judith L. Maze, who was the first woman chair of Alma's Board of Trustees.

I. Bibliographic sources:

Alma College Bulletin. n.d. Alma College, Alma, MI.

Facilities Notebook Catalogue of Alma College. 1899. Archives, Alma College, Alma, MI.

Within Our Bounds: A Centennial History of Alma College. [Alma, MI?: s.n., 1986].

II. Location of other data:
University: Library, Special Collections

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