The University of Vermont's new Davis Center is hogging all the attention up on the hill. OK, the recently opened monolithic structure does represent UVM's most ambitious building project in recent memory. But on the other end of campus, the Robert Hull Fleming Museum is quietly renovating its lobby in anticipation of a new gift shop-cum-coffee lounge with wi-fi.
For artsy students with early morning classes, caffeine enables consciousness. The Davis Center notwithstanding, UVM's campus still needs more strategically placed java spots. At least that's the word from Fleming Museum Executive Director Janie Cohen. "This is something we've been wanting to do for a long time," she explains on a recent morning at the designated site. "Museum visitors should be able to meet a friend, take some time, you know."
The space Cohen refers to is, like the museum itself, a blend of disparate styles. The 1930s lobby wall - incidentally, the building's former outer façade - is blood-red brick. An adjacent floor, which was added in the 1980s, is regal marble. Tall glass panels surround the space.
Fittingly, Cohen says, the new enterprise will serve multiple purposes. Against the wall, tables will hold carafes of Speeder & Earl's coffee and trays heaped with baked goods. A nearby nook will offer museum merch, such as tote bags. "I'm hoping that UVM students, but also people beyond UVM, will see this as an unusual place to have a meeting," Cohen says. "It's public, but there's some privacy in it, too."
The details of this new socializing spot, she suggests, will crystallize later. But not too much later: The as-yet-unnamed gift shop-coffee lounge opens September 20, to coincide with a reception for the fall exhibitions. "This is such a gorgeous architectural space," muses Cohen, gesturing at the wall, floor and windows. "It'd be a shame not to take advantage of it."