Sidney and Lois Eskenazi School of Art, Architecture + Design naming ceremony

Sidney and Lois Eskenazi School of Art, Architecture + Design

Friday, October 25, 2019

A paradigm shift in art, architecture, and design

Tom Hardy, a former editor of The International Journal of Art and Design Education, writes that “the artistic and philosophical zeitgeist… (created) a paradigm which has changed art and design, architecture, music, and the theatre beyond recognition in the last two decades of the twentieth century.”1

Today, as we gather to formally name Indiana University’s Sidney and Lois Eskenazi School of Art, Architecture + Design, we celebrate a school that was established in response to these very changes. We also celebrate the school’s greatest benefactors, Sid and Lois Eskenazi, and their transformative gift that will allow the school, its students, and its faculty to thrive and succeed in the rapidly changing world of art, architecture, and design.

A brief history of the Eskenazi School of Art, Architecture + Design

The school is part of a long tradition of excellence in the fine arts at IU Bloomington. It has its historical roots in the Department of Studio Art, which was founded in 1895, and which grew to become one of the nation’s premier art programs.

But, just as the media industry has been dramatically transformed by information technology, so too has design been transformed, with the digital convergence of every form of design from architecture to fashion through extraordinary innovations like 3D printing.

In 2015, in response to these changes—and with the enthusiastic support of the faculty—the IU Trustees approved the establishment of the School of Art and Design, which was formed through a merger of the departments of studio art and apparel merchandising and interior design. The new school was established to provide a state-of-the-art education in these fields to students who will be seeking careers in this radically new world where design is of fundamental importance to all areas of business and industry, and where design theories, technologies, and methods of delivery and consumption are rapidly changing.

As part of the extensive renovation of the campus’s historic Old Crescent, Kirkwood Hall was renovated to serve as the home to the school’s administrative offices, its programs in apparel merchandising, interior design, and fashion design—as well as a new program in Comprehensive Design, a program that will also include instruction at IU’s Center for Art and Design, in Columbus, Indiana, which is now part of the school.

And, of course, given the remarkable opportunities and resources provided by the city of Columbus—a city whose architecture has been nationally and internationally acclaimed, and which has been ranked the sixth most architecturally significant city in the United States by the American Institute of Architects—IU also established a new Master of Architecture degree program within the school, which then became the School of Art, Architecture + Design. The program is named in honor of J. Irwin Miller, the visionary former chairman and CEO of Cummins, who established the Cummins Foundation, which paid the architectural fees for world-class architects to design so many of the magnificent buildings of Columbus.

The new Architecture program is a superb complement to IU's outstanding strengths in the arts and humanities. And, together with IU’s new program in intelligent systems engineering in the Luddy School of Informatics, Computing and Engineering, it will contribute enormously to IU’s efforts to create and sustain a culture of “building and making” here on the Bloomington campus.  Such a culture is an essential part of maximizing the university’s potential for developing its inventions and innovations for the economic benefit of all Hoosiers.

Celebrating the generosity of Sid and Lois Eskenazi

Today, of course, we celebrate the newest chapter in the history of this dynamic school—its naming in recognition of Sidney and Lois Eskenazi, who have been great philanthropic supporters of Indiana University for many years, dating right back to 1970, when Sid first established a scholarship fund. Since then, hundreds of students have benefited vitally from scholarship aid funded by the Eskenazis. Sid and Lois have also generously supported the arts and art students through their support of IU’s Herron School of Art and Design on the Indianapolis campus. The home of the Herron school, Eskenazi Hall, is, of course, named in their honor.

On April 10th of this year, we celebrated the fourth annual IU Day, a day of engagement on which students, alumni, and friends around the world came together in celebration of all things IU. On that day, I had the great pleasure of announcing Sid and Lois’s enormously generous gift to the School of Art, Architecture + Design and that the school would be named in their honor in recognition of their generosity and their longstanding commitment to IU and the arts.

In addition to the scholarships, faculty development programs, and other initiatives that I mentioned earlier, the Eskenazi’s generous gift to the school will also make possible the construction of a new building originally planned for the Bloomington campus in the 1950s, based upon a design by the legendary architect Ludwig Mies van der Rohe, who is regarded as one of the founders of modern architecture. The original Mies design was not built in the 1950s and was largely forgotten until Sid, who was an IU student in 1952, mentioned his knowledge of the design at a breakfast meeting we had some years ago. After extensive research, plans and documentation for the building were uncovered. Those original designs will inform the design and engineering work for the planned new construction. The building will serve as an enduring symbol of the legacy of generosity of Sid and Lois Eskenazi, and an enduring symbol of the very founding of architectural modernism. There is perhaps no better way to highlight our new J. Irwin Miller Architecture Program in the Eskenazi School than by constructing a building for it based on designs by this legendary architect.

On behalf of Indiana University, I want to offer our most sincere thanks to Sidney and Lois Eskenazi for their extraordinary generous gift in support of the school.

Their generosity will touch the lives of countless students, faculty, and staff. And it will have a transformative impact on the mission of a school that is providing a state-of-the-art education in art, architecture and design, and is helping to build a vibrant culture of building and making across the Hoosier state.

The entire university community is profoundly grateful to Sid and Lois for all they have done to further IU’s rich and longstanding traditions in the arts and humanities and for their remarkable continued generosity to the university.

Guiding students over the road of discipline to creative work

In his 1938 inaugural speech as director of the school of architecture at what is now the Illinois Institute of Technology in Chicago, Ludwig Mies van der Rohe, set forth his vision for the development of the school.

"Education," Mies said, "must lead us from irresponsible opinion to true responsible judgment. It must lead us from chance and arbitrariness to rational clarity and intellectual order. Therefore," he continued, "let us guide our students over the road of discipline from materials, through function, to creative work."2

Indiana University and the Eskenazi School of Art, Architecture + Design share the very ideals articulated by Mies. The school’s faculty, in a range of art and design disciplines, will guide students as they traverse, with rational clarity, the road of discipline from materials, through function, to creative work.

And all of us look forward to witnessing the impressive contributions that coming generations of graduates of the Eskenazi School will make that will enrich Indiana University and the cultural heritage of our state, the nation, and the world.

Source notes

  1. Tom Hardy (ed.), Art Education in a Postmodern World, (Intellect Books, 2006), 7.
  2. Mies van der Rohe, as quoted in Peter Blake, The Master Builders: Le Corbusier, Mies Van Der Rohe, Frank Lloyd Wright, (W. W. Norton & Company, 1996), 230-231.