The 411 on 314

photo courtesy of Ric Damm
photo courtesy of Ric Damm

By: Lauren Hince 

Picture a trendy downtown space, filled from floor to ceiling with college kids decked out in their most authentic hipster garb, sipping their caramel lattes while listening to the smooth stylings of the latest jazz music. Now, picture this space smack dab in the middle of Watson Street.

You may be thinking that this all sounds too good to be true but, thanks to a grant provided by the Kemper Foundation, Ripon College has created a new downtown art space called 314.

Rafael Salas, associate professor of art, says, “[314] is a multipurpose space.” The new space can be used for art exhibits, small ensembles, group meetings, classes, parties and more. The school is trying to create a downtown space that students want to go to and that is actually open after 7 p.m.

Travis Nygard, associate professor of art and chair of the department, adds that this space is a one year experiment. “It might be fabulous or it might not,” says Nygard. For now, the plan is to hire three student workers to manage the space. As for maintaining it, the college is hoping for additional grants or donations so the school can pay the rent after the Kemper grant expires; however, this decision is still unclear.

Salas says, “We hope students use [the space] continually for independent projects and events.”

The idea is for students after classes to walk across the street grab a hot cup of coffee or an iced chai from Mugs and just hangout. Seems simple because this idea was done once before. “Students used to run an open mic night at Roadhouse, and it was really popular,” says Salas. 314 has a similar aim.

The other aim of this project is to engage the community. Salas is hoping the space could be used for catering events or hosting small parties, but that is also still to come.

Nygard adds, “Liberal arts is about building communities. So, having a space that fosters events can help to actualize this concept.”

If this space pleases your inner indie soul, stop on by September 4 at 8 p.m. when 314 will be hosting a ceremonial ribbon cutting. But don’t forget your coffee.