WSU’s Art and Design Department is on the cusp of exploding. With that comes the realization that the facilities its housed in are no longer sufficient. The building was built in the 1960s, has never been updated, and was designated the building in most need of repair across the entire Minnesota State system. Space is another issue – classrooms are being used not only for lectures and labs, but also for study space, production space, storage space and more. In a discipline that thrives off aesthetics, these issues greatly hinder students’ educational and creative experiences.

But despite the adversity they face from these elements, our students succeed. 90% of WSU design students earn a job in their field upon graduating. It’s a phenomenal program that’s poised to take off, if only they had the space to do so. If they have that, can you imagine where they could go, what they could do?
Enter The Laird Norton Center for Art & Design. In this new space, WSU students will experience a makerspace, fabrication lab, state-of-the-art gallery spaces, design studios, classroom spaces and collaborative spaces to work on projects with the local community and industry. Students’ educational and creative experiences will change completely – and be brought fully into the 21st century.

The program structure exists, the Laird Norton building exists – but it remains a blank canvas waiting to reach its full potential. With the help of our donors, plus an additional $2 million the University will contribute to this initiative, Winona State is ready to make The Laird Norton Center for Art & Design the premier visual art and innovation center in Southern Minnesota and provide a level of creative opportunity and experience for our students not available at any other university in the region.

By the Numbers

Opportunities Abound

  • Collaborative, high-tech classrooms
  • Fab Lab
  • Makerspace
  • Project incubator space
  • Business incubator space
  • Photography studio
  • I-Design studios
  • Climate-controlled collection storage
  • Multiple gallery spaces
  • State-of-the-art lecture hall
  • New back entrance and facade

“I see the Laird Norton Center for Art & Design affecting programming by completely transforming it and providing a contemporary, up-to-date facility for our art and design programs. We’ll have spaces to produce things, to print things, to make things, to fabricate things, but we’ll also have spaces where students can work after hours, where professors can teach both hands-on activities as well as theory – we’re not able to do that right now.” – Roger Boulay, Art Gallery & Collections Coordinator

“As a learning experience, Laird Norton will be phenomenal because not only do you have expanded gallery space, but you have the Makerspace, the Fab Lab, more space for I-Design, graphic design, plus business opportunities and the ability to interact more with the public. That sounds like something that would really set you apart as a student to have those experiences.” – Holly M. Al-Abad ‘18

“The benefit for all parties involved is collaboration in the spirit of innovation. We certainly want to have some gallery spaces that we can use to display the collections we have. But we’ve also got some pieces that will be innovative classrooms, we’ve got some pieces that will be creative workspaces where students and entrepreneurs in the community are coming together and designing work, but then they’re turning right around to the production lab and producing that work. These are the things that excite us, the opportunity to go beyond the traditional and have those real hands-on, innovation spaces.” Rita Rahoi-Gilchrest, Associate Dean of the College of Liberal Arts

How you can get involved


Donations of all sizes make an impact to this effort, with gifts of $1,000+ being recognized on a collective artistic installation planned for the new Laird Norton Center for Art & Design.


Join us at the Laird Norton Arts Gala on Friday, October 5, 2018 at 6:30pm in The Laird Norton Center for Art & Design. Explore the space, learn more about the campaign, and participate in a silent auction. You will also take part in various art experiences, including a virtual reality game created by WSU students, and enjoy live music, a photo booth, a caricature artist, and sneak peeks of our current art collection.


Read more about the project, watch video testimonials about the impact, and stay up-to-date on The Laird Norton Center for Art & Design campaign at

The following two tabs change content below.

Sarah Stockwell

Latest posts by Sarah Stockwell (see all)