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Led by the E.M. Baker Foundation, a visual arts initiative has been started to set up a free, 24-hour arts studio for MIT students. The studio will become a reality once space has been allocated, according to Baker Foundation Chair Tina P. Srivastava ’09.

In a letter, the Foundation states that there is a need for a new arts studio because “the only studio space for students is in the poorly ventilated Student Art Association classrooms.”

“MIT currently has no free studio space where students can paint, draw, or sculpt,” the letter continues. “Many students who were passionate about art in high school have been forced to choose between living in a cramped room smelling of oil paints and giving up their passion.”

Dean for Student Life Larry G. Benedict said he was aware of the demand for visual arts space, as well as the student group space in general. “However, to my knowledge there is no additional space in the immediate future,” Benedict said in an e-mail.

Pritchett Dining, which will be closed down this fall, was a potential location for the art studio, Srivastava said. Campus Dining, however, told Srivastava that a contract with Pritchett vendor Sodexho lasts three more years, making Pritchett unavailable for student use, she said.

Those who support the initiative include Benedict, President Susan Hockfield, Dean for Undergraduate Education Daniel E. Hastings PhD ’80, the SAA, the Undergraduate Association, and Rune, MIT’s student arts journal, according to Srivastava.

Based on conversations he had with members of the foundation over the summer, Phillip J. Walsh, director of Campus Activities Complex, said in an e-mail, “The group will be working to develop a program statement defining the program specifics and what they are seeking to address.”

The initiative evolved over talks that began in November 2006, Srivastava said. For the privately endowed Baker Foundation, an Institute committee, the problem is not funding, but gaining wider support for the arts initiative from the MIT community and finding space, she said.