Cultural centers eagerly anticipate using ARCH building

While ARCH was under construction, groups made efforts to overcome outreach concerns

· January 16, 2014, 6:50 pm   ·  Updated January 16, 2014, 9:50 pm

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Luke Chen | DP

The ARCH, which reopened to students this week, features a cafe, study spaces and a classroom.


The four centers historically located in the ARCH have finally come home.

The Arts, Research and Culture House, located on 36th Street and Locust Walk, recently completed a $24.5 million restoration and upgrade of its facilities. The four centers previously housed in the ARCH included three cultural centers — La Casa Latina, Makuu: The Black Cultural Center and the Pan-Asian American Community House — and the Center for Undergraduate Research and Fellowships. All four were relocated when construction began on the building in the summer of 2012.

The three cultural centers were moved to the second floor of Houston Hall.

Related: ARCHing over Penn, a cultural house reopens

Potential issues with outreach and programming as a result of the relocation were thought through “very carefully,” said William Gipson, the associate vice provost for equity and access, who oversees the three cultural centers.

Latino Coalition Chair and College sophomore Diana Cabrera said that there were efforts made to work around possible outreach concerns.

For example, “there was a big push to publicize events and use social media,” she said.

Asian Pacific Student Coalition Chair and College junior Mithin Thomas noted that the smaller spaces in Houston resulted in some difficulty bringing in people and creating a comfortable environment.

However, Cabrera said she did not perceive a problem with the move to Houston in terms of finding spaces to host events.

Related: ARCH centers forced to relocate during construction

Director of PAACH Peter Van Do acknowledged that the months spent out of the ARCH came with some “challenges.”

“But we knew it was temporary,” he said in an email, speaking on behalf of all three cultural centers.

However, there were some benefits of moving out. In Houston, all the centers were in close proximity to each other, fostering collaboration and engagement.

“Through this process we really bonded,” Van Do said.

In the renovated ARCH, all the lounges and offices of the cultural centers are located next to each other on the ground floor, so the precedent of collaboration will be able to continue. This layout was the “preference” of students and staff who participated in the design process for the new ARCH, Gipson said.

“[This collaboration is] something we plan to continue,” Cabrera said. “Right now we’re thinking of events to maintain that relationship,” she added.

In addition to the spaces for the cultural center on the ground floor, the groups will also have access to the renovated meeting rooms upstairs as well as the large auditorium.

UMOJA Co-Chair and College junior Denzel Cummings said they intend to use these “spaces as a meeting ground for minority groups.”

“We’re already putting in space requests,” he said.

“I’m excited about … how the students use the building and what kinds of events they will plan,” Gipson said.

As for CURF, they moved their offices to the space above the Ben and Jerry’s on 40th Street. Back in the ARCH, CURF noted the benefit of having a central location on campus.

“It was harder for people to find us [when we were on 40th Street],” Director of CURF Harriet Joseph said.

“We foresee a lot more collaboration than what we used to do,” Assistant Director of Communications for CURF Aaron Olson said.

The renovated Fireside Lounge, located on the second floor of the ARCH just next to CURF’s main office, was upgraded with the latest “smart” technology, which will be especially useful for speakers, presentations and other such events CURF hosts.

“This has been a long time coming,” Cummings said about moving back into the ARCH. “We’re extremely excited.”

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