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Art meets science: New facility a mecca for collaborative research

Objects produced by the facility's 3D Z Printer 450

Imagine a place where studio painters, sculptors, ceramicists, graphic artists, scientists and engineers gather to collaborate on projects that might someday change the way everyday objects are created.

The Facility for Arts Research (FAR) — a 22,500-square-foot former cancer-research facility nestled on 5 acres in northwest Tallahassee — is the result of a new initiative from Florida State University's College of Visual Arts, Theatre & Dance. FAR will provide a unique, interdisciplinary research environment for  both the fine arts and the sciences.

"The FAR building is the first of its kind in the country and arguably in the world," said Sally McRorie, dean of the College of Visual Arts, Theatre & Dance, at a ribbon-cutting ceremony held Dec. 8. "We're making this extraordinary facility into a reality."

Florida State is being very efficient and effective by taking a pre-existing building and re-imagining it into a cutting-edge artists' mecca that will provide students with an even richer academic experience, said FSU President Eric J. Barron.

Official ribbon cutting of new FAR building
Video — Facility for Arts Research Building: Combining the Digital and Physical

FAR will allow students, faculty and researchers in the arts, engineering, sciences, medicine, information, business and beyond to work together on innovative research projects that truly cross disciplinary boundaries. For example, students will be able to design objects and then produce them by using the facility's 3D Z Printer 450, a state-of-the-art, three-dimensional printer that can print whole objects in their entirety, including tools.

In addition to the 3D printer, the FAR building will provide the special equipment that students and researchers will need to experiment with printmaking, electronics and digital fabrication, allowing the college to expand what Barron believes is a rigorous, interdisciplinary look into art making and business initiatives related to design.

The new facility is very 21st century, combining several key concepts that the university is emphasizing campus-wide to move forward — "collaborative, cross-disciplinary, entrepreneurial," as Barron described it. This is another signal, he added, that Florida State's outstanding arts programs are truly elite.

The facility is located in the former Taxalog building, purchased by the FSU Research Foundation and recently approved for transfer to the university by the university's Board of Trustees.

The building is spacious enough to accommodate both classrooms and laboratories. It also houses a seminar room named for Vice President for Research and Robert O. Lawton Professor of Physics Kirby W. Kemper. Kemper, who recently announced his retirement and who is widely renowned for his passionate support of the arts, said recently that the realization of the FAR building was among "the proudest moments of my career."

"Tallahassee is at the forefront of bringing together engineering, recycled materials and art," he said.

Chad Eby, an assistant professor in Florida State University's College of Visual Arts, Theatre & Dance, who is spearheading the effort, knows that FAR will someday inspire amazing art — and research.

At 45, Eby, who holds two degrees in communications as well as a master's degree in fine arts, is a hybrid of new and old himself. He's old-school enough to know that a studio painter might not see the possibilities in the digital world, but hip enough to understand that learning new technology alongside traditional art-making will help ensure that students are well prepared to enter a competitive job market.

For additional information on the Facility for Arts Research, contact Eby at (850) 728-1901 or

By Elizabeth Bettendorf
8 December 2011

"The FAR building is the first of its kind in the country and arguably in the world. We're making this extraordinary facility into a reality."

Sally McRorie
Dean, Florida State University College of Visual Arts, Theatre & Dance