Massachusetts Daily Collegian

A free and responsible press serving the UMass community since 1890

A free and responsible press serving the UMass community since 1890

Massachusetts Daily Collegian

A free and responsible press serving the UMass community since 1890

Massachusetts Daily Collegian

Satire: The Fine Arts Center looks neither “fine” nor “artistic,” but it still deserves some love

A love letter to the FAC— because what else am I supposed to do at this point?
Nina Walat / Daily Collegian

Editor’s Note: The following column is satirical. It is meant for humorous purposes. All interviews and individuals are fictitious.

As someone with a lot of music classes, I find myself walking through the trapezoidal labyrinth that is the Fine Arts Center on a daily basis. Despite the widely held notion that the FAC is one of the ugliest buildings on campus— a notion rivaled only by the presence of the Campus Center— I can still convince myself that there’s something to love about it.

During heavy downpours and thunderstorms, there’s no better place to be than the FAC. The dimly lit covered sidewalk creates the perfect atmosphere for rumination and slow, pensive walking. As I suavely dodge the water spraying out from the inefficiently slanted gutters, I feel like I can finally live out the villain character arc of my dreams. A loose sidewalk slab wobbles underfoot, and I watch the same rectangular light flicker in the distance like a strobe. I ponder to myself: is it an emergency light or is it just broken? I guess we’ll never know, but that’s all part of the FAC’s alluring mystery.

It’s true that I feel oddly comforted by the FAC. Its monolithic horizontal structure evokes a feeling of permanence and constancy. I can rest easy knowing that the FAC will always be here for me. With that many tons of concrete, it sure isn’t going anywhere. In fact, it’ll probably outlive the rise and fall of entire civilizations.

In my opinion, the true beauty of the FAC is found in its interior, transcending its twelve-foot, thick concrete walls. But entering the building is no easy feat. Like Platform 9¾, one can only enter if they truly believe.

Some entrances, especially ones placed in easily accessible locations, have been deemed by the University to “make too much sense” and therefore have been permanently locked. Current known door locations include the “parking lot dumpster entrance” and the “goose-terrorized campus pond entrance,” just to name a few.

Depending on the door you use, you will be placed in one of many inconspicuously organized departmental hallways. You never know where you’re going to end up or how you’re going to get to your class. This is another exciting trait of the FAC, most likely inspired by the equally mind-bending internal layout of Morrill Science Center.

Allegedly, all departments and facilities within the FAC are internally connected through a complicated network of hallways and dark staircases that stretch the entirety of its estimated 900-foot length. A fabled attraction known by all departments is the concert hall’s green room. Located next to the ominous freight elevator on the very lowest basement level, this room features wood paneling, shag carpet, a dark green sofa and an unsettling amount of mirrors. This is the perfect room to stand in if you want to feel like a murder victim in a David Lynch film.

“Legend has it that only senior performance majors have the ability to navigate the hallways and secret backrooms that connect the departments,” senior glockenspiel performance major Tim Panie said. “Not necessarily because we’ve been here longer, but because after four years, the spirit of the FAC deems us worthy enough to obtain this knowledge.”

“Or maybe I’m just going crazy in here, who knows?” he added nervously.

If you like dark subterranean lairs, then you’re going to love the classroom environments at the FAC.

When asked about their decision to build three stories underground, UMass administration said, “A building with only one basement level? Those are rookie numbers.”

After walking down three flights of stairs, rehearsal rooms such as “room 000044” are characterized by an aesthetic that students like to call “fallout shelter-core.” It’s widely believed that this environment is ideal for rehearsing.

“We rehearse in 000044 and the band rehearses one room over,” said Vya Lin, assistant concertmaster for the symphony orchestra. “We’ve never heard them once! It’s great. The walls here are very thick. The soundproofing is phenomenal. In the Fine Arts Center, nobody can hear your scream.”

Like any building meant to enlighten and inspire one’s artistic spirit, the FAC has absolutely zero windows.

Mendel Sun, a piano performance major who was playing in one of the basement practice rooms said, “Without windows in here, you never realize how long you’ve been practicing. They did this on purpose.”

From the labyrinthine hallways to the liminal practice rooms, the FAC ultimately deserves some love. After all, it continues to prove that great art can be created anywhere, no matter how ugly the building looks.

Kelly McMahan can be reached at [email protected].

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    Chris McCarthyMar 23, 2022 at 7:10 pm

    Great article! Reading it brought back a flood of memories that I feel compelled to share. I graduated from UMASS Amherst in 1985 and some of my most cherished memories come from I worked as a stage hand at the FAC. Best work study job ever!

    I saw symphony orchestras, ballets, Alvin Ailey’s company countless times, Santana at least 4 times, numerous other dance troupes, every band on the college circuit at the time, wonderful plays, etc. When you work on the stage crew, you are responsible for load-in (emptying the trucks with all of the equipment), load-out (the reverse of load-in) and everything that takes place in between. Lighting, sound, and set building were some of the coolest things I learned while there. And, oh yeah, once everything is done, you get to sit in the best seats in the house for rehearsal before opening night. I still get chills when I think about all the wonderful experiences I had at the FAC. Here’s a couple of them.

    The author shares that there is no better place to be during a rainstorm. Well, one day while coming back from the Tower Library to Van Meter North, it was raining heavily. So I ducked into an open entrance to the FAC. What happened next was transformative.

    I heard Jazz music being played and followed the sound until I came into a rehearsal room with 4 or 5 musicians plying their trade. It took a minute for me to realize that Max Roach was on the drums and the other musicians were his fellow music department instructors. I stayed until they were done and it was glorious. Best part? Not an isolated incident. These guys would jam on a consistent basis and I went to listen every chance I got!

    I also worked as an installation assistant in the Art Gallery. I developed a deeper appreciation for various art forms and saw some beautiful works while there. The Gallery was a quite, contemplative place that I often went to seeking peace and solace. But one performance turned that upside down (at least temporarily)!

    Fab Five Freddy, immortalized by Blondie (aka Debra Harry) in her song Rapture, had a live performance in the Gallery as part of a Performance Art series being featured that semester. The place was jumping and I never thought I’d see that in our Gallery. People dancing everywhere, loud music blasting, Fab Five Freddy rapping and it was fabulous!

    I could go on and on. But please know the FAC is a revered building. And it’s not ugly!