Otis College students will now be able to live on campus

By Christina Campodonico

Otis’ new residence hall (left) and academic wing will transform campus life Photo by Kristy Campbell 

Otis’ new residence hall (left) and academic wing will transform campus life
Photo by Kristy Campbell

Otis College of Art and Design has been a Westside arts enclave since moving to Westchester in 1997, but this semester will be the first that its students can eat and sleep here, too.

The private college celebrated completion of a new four-story academic wing and a new five-story residence hall last month, with students moving into the 230-bed dormitory just west of Lincoln Boulevard on Aug. 20.

The LEED-certified buildings include a 300-seat auditorium, an expansion of the Millard Sheets Library, an updated dining hall, a student health and wellness center and classrooms to house Otis’ Fashion Design Department, relocated from Downtown Los Angeles.

“It’s a game changer,” Otis College of Art and Design President Bruce Ferguson said. “There will be 24/7 activity on the campus, and that’s going to change the ethos and the culture of the campus to a large extent.”

During an Aug. 18 ribbon-cutting ceremony, Ferguson said the structures mark the beginning of a new era for Otis.

“We’re moving from being a commuter school to one that has residence life,” he said.

As one would expect from a school of art and design, Otis tapped a pair of top local architects for the project: Steven Ehrlich of Culver City-based Ehrlich Architects and Frederick Fisher of West L.A.’s Frederick Fisher and Partners.

The architects spoke about their collaboration on the  project over a multi-year design process.

“I think the success of a collaboration is when the work is not identified with one person or the other person, but a chemistry is created where there’s something unique that comes out of that collaboration. Personally, I feel like we achieved that,” Fisher said.

“We have created a heart, a true center of this campus,” added Ehrlich, who contributed a scenic quad to the center of campus.

Anna Kozma, a field deputy for L.A. City Councilman Mike Bonin, praised the college for establishing a residential program that will give Otis a larger presence in the neighborhood.

“Otis has now officially made Westchester its home, and by doing so has made Westchester home to a significant art community,” she said.

For Board of Trustees Chair Emerita Elaine Goldsmith — a champion of Otis since the 1970s and, along with her late husband Bram, the namesake of Otis’ Goldsmith Campus — the new facilities are an almost unbelievable realization of a long-held vision for the school.

“It’s sort of difficult for me to realize I’m not dreaming. I can only tell them that they made it so much better than anything I ever dreamt,” she said.

“It makes me cry,” Goldsmith later told The Argonaut. “I’m so overwhelmed with it and so thrilled with everything that’s happening. It’s wonderful to see so many people that not only got involved, but threw their whole mind and bodies into it with so much work.”

“And we finished on time,” she added.