A Building with 'No Silos'

By Mary Hardbarger

The Artis Center for Adaptive Innovation and Creativity offers unique opportunities for collaboration across disciplines.

Radford University representatives and supporters officially broke ground this spring on the future site of the Artis Center for Adaptive Innovation and Creativity, a state-of-the-art complex that will serve as a blended teaching and learning space for the arts and health sciences.

The center is named for alumna Nancy E. Artis ’73 and her husband H. Pat Artis, Ph.D., who gifted the University $6 million to support scholarships in the Waldron College of Health and Human Services, the College of Visual and Performing Arts and the Department of Athletics.

At approximately $101 million and 178,000 square feet, the Artis Center represents the largest capital construction in the history of Radford University in terms of total project funding and square footage. The multi-story building will replace existing space for the College of Visual and Performing Arts (CVPA), specifically McGuffey and Porterfield halls, and also create interdisciplinary student spaces serving the Waldron College of Health and Human Services and the Artis College of Science
and Technology.

“True to the mission of Radford, the Artis Center for Adaptive Innovation and Creativity will provide a space to work across disciplines to transform and elevate our student experiences across professions through creative and innovative learning experiences,” said Johnnie Sue Wijewardane, Ph.D., dean of the School of Nursing. “Whether through standardized patient simulation opportunities or larger-scale emergency and disaster drills, this facility is an exciting way to marry the medical arts and sciences with the visual and performing arts.”

Demolition of Porterfield East and West halls, as well as McGuffey Hall, began in June. Construction of the Artis Center is scheduled for substantial completion in December 2023, and move-in will begin during the spring and summer months of 2024.
Classes are anticipated to start in the new facility for the Fall 2024 semester.

The Artis Center will exhibit an exterior façade that incorporates historic elements of the original campus buildings, including red brick, white precast and vertical punched windows.

The building will also include more modern elements, such as metal and glass, and will complement recently constructed adjacent facilities along Main Street, such as the Center for the Sciences.

The Artis Center will be centrally situated among several key student and faculty spaces, such as the Student Recreation and Wellness Center, the Covington Center, residence halls and offices.


Its proximity to Radford City’s Main Street corridor will also be convenient for community members who frequent campus for concerts, performances, art exhibits and other showcases of CVPA faculty and staff, in addition to services provided through Waldron College.
Inside amenities will include:

  • State-of-the-art instruction, laboratory, maker, studio, computer and collaborative spaces that integrate the arts and health sciences, along with office and other academic support functions;
  • An instructional auditorium and support spaces;
  • Health science clinical lab spaces;
  • Painting and drawing studio spaces; and
  • Music and dance studio spaces.

In alignment with the University’s commitment to sustainability, the building is expected to be LEED-Silver certified, with an anticipated future goal of LEED-Gold.

A 'building that never sleeps'


When CVPA Dean Margaret Devaney and her colleagues first began brainstorming the Artis Center back in 2017, she said they envisioned a “forever building,” or, a building that is relevant over time and to many academic disciplines.

“From the very beginning of the planning process, we said this building was going to be the heart of the University,” she said. “We would see all the programs across campus through the lens of the arts.”

Devaney emphasized the natural connection between the arts and the health sciences, a collaboration the Artis Center will foster and enhance.


For example, the Radford University Autism Center, to be housed in the Artis Center, provides assessments and therapy for children and adults with autism spectrum disorders using an interdisciplinary approach. Faculty in the Department of Communication Sciences and Disorders collaborate with colleagues from music, dance and psychology to provide comprehensive evaluations and intervention services.

The Radford University Speech-Language-Hearing Clinic, also to be relocated to the Artis Center, provides prevention, assessment and treatment of speech, language, swallowing and hearing disorders for individuals from infancy through adulthood. Consultations, co-treatment and research studies are implemented with occupational therapy and music therapy students.

“I am a believer that the arts can connect with anything and everything,” Devaney said.

Devaney also called the building a “24/7” destination for today’s student body that is constantly on the go.

True to the mission of Radford, the Artis Center for Adaptive Innovation and Creativity will provide a space to work across disciplines to transform and elevate our student experiences across professions through creative and innovative learning experiences. Johnnie Sue Wijewardane, Ph.D. School of Nursing

“These days, you are more likely to find students interacting, studying and rehearsing at 3 a.m. than 3 p.m.,”
she explained.

To support these late-night needs and to showcase these vibrant activities, the Artis Center’s design will be very transparent and open to the public.

Through large windows and viewing spaces, visitors to the building will be able to watch artists, dancers, healthcare workers and scientists in action. In the main area of the building, or the hub, there will be a convertible space suitable for lectures, performances and other gatherings. A large staircase, also located in the building’s common area, will invite students from all disciplines to sit down and share ideas.

An area that especially excites Devaney is a proposed therapy garden.

“This will be a place where speech therapy and other health sciences students will hold classes, but you might also catch an art student sketching or a group of musicians performing an impromptu guitar performance,” Devaney said. “We are doing everything we can to encourage interaction, collaboration, convergence and serendipitous
collisions and to break away from all the educational silos.”

It is evident that the possibilities for the Artis Center are endless, “and that is what I love about it,” she continued.

“I can’t tell you everything that is going to happen in that building because that’s the excitement of it. That’s the adventure,” Devaney said.