College of the Arts plans to convert a student hotspot into Virtual Reality room

The Department of Visual Arts cell block nestled between animation classrooms 185 and 189 in building E has not hosted a class in over a decade. The College of the Arts at Cal State Fullerton is now polishing plans that would add virtual reality equipment and other animation technology to enhance the cell block.

The remodel is the first step of a larger goal to renovate the entire visual arts complex.

However, the room’s lack of official purpose has allowed it to become a popular hangout for arts and animation students.

“It’s a space to hangout with your fellow students. Obviously you meet people in the classrooms as well, but (this is) a little less of a working environment,” said Trent Fremont, an entertainment art/animation major. Fremont added that the room is frequently enjoyed by students taking a break between classes.

However, faculty and administration have put forward a new design for the cell block.

“Right now it’s not being used as much as it could be.  We’re thinking that we can upgrade it to have more stuff that students can do,” said Andy Fedak, animator and assistant professor of entertainment arts.  

Fedak said that he envisions the new design as a multi-use space with one side of the room dedicated to modern virtual reality computers, another for stop motion animation with upgraded lighting equipment, and much of the remaining space set aside for collaboration on group projects.

He emphasized that the remodeling is centered around the goal of making high-quality resources available to arts students.

“It’s all the stuff that we’re teaching, and we really need to get it into the students’ hands,” Fedak said. “I feel like a lot of kids haven’t had access to a lot of equipment, (especially) the high-end (VR) systems. Also (for) things like stop motion, having enough space to do that kind of work can be really difficult for students to get access to.”

The change in the cell block won’t go unnoticed. Currently, CSUF’s 100-member Pencil Mileage Club holds its officer meetings and houses its history in the room. Fremont said it contains a vast array of memorabilia left from past alumni of the club, as well as some famous animation artifacts like the animation desk used for the movie “Bambi.”

Fedak said the club, students and faculty will be notified in advance in order to find new locations for the significant items stored in the cell block before the room is cleared out. Signage has already appeared on the doors of nearby classrooms alerting students to remove personal items from the area.

Despite the steps toward clearing out the room, no plans are fully in motion.

Dale Merrill, dean of the College of the Arts, said that the college is hoping to receive a grant from an outside organization to fund the new addition of animation technology. Merrill said the waiting period before receiving news about the grant could take anywhere from three to six months, possibly delaying the start of the project until summer 2019.

Beyond the cell block, Merrill said the College of the Arts is working with President Fram Virjee on a larger goal to secure state funding for a full renovation of the visual arts complex within the next six years.

This renovation would seek significant improvements to technology available to students and faculty, as well as creating more open areas for arts students to interact and work.

“Upgrading (the cell block) is like a Band-Aid on what we’re doing right now and then hopefully in the next 5 to 10 years we’ll get funds for some real deal building (renovations),” Fedak said.

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