A water pipe burst in the Center for the Arts (CFA) on Sunday night, Feb. 3, causing flooding in the Art Workshops building. The print shop, cinema, and Art Studio Program Director and Professor of Art David Schorr’s office were the most damaged.
On Monday morning, around 6:30 a.m., a custodial staff member alerted Physical Plant that there was a pipe burst in the basement corridor of the building.
“The custodian that services the area called his supervisor, [then] the supervisor called me,” Facilities Manager Debra Holman wrote in an email to The Argus. “We went over to investigate [and] upon arrival a public safety officer was there [who] was making rounds to unlock buildings and discovered the water.”
Schorr received a phone call on Monday morning from his secretary, who proceeded to tell him that there had been a flood.
“I didn’t know how bad it was,” Schorr said. “[The secretary] said, ‘I’m just calling to warn you that you’re going to confront chaos.’ She just knew it was this building. She didn’t know that right outside my office was sort of the epicenter.”
When he arrived, Schorr said that he found four inches of mud covering the floor in the corridor, continuing into the print shop and his office.
“My first concern was for my thesis students because my work is my work, but they have to put up senior shows in a couple of months,” he said. “And it turned out the print shop was not as badly hit as my office. My office really got it and the cinema next door got it worse.”
Andrew Malkin ’15 visited the site of the flood on Monday.
“Somehow, because of the pipe bursting, it looked like a clay bomb just exploded,” Malkin said.
No thesis work was damaged, and all of the printing equipment survived the burst pipe.
“I personally didn’t lose any work, but I lost a lot of raw material,” Caitlin Palmer ’13, who is working on her Art Studio thesis in the print shop, wrote in an email to The Argus.
Some of Schorr’s personal artwork was ruined, including pieces of a recent retrospective exhibition from the State University of New York and 2 of 10 portraits that he created for former University professor Phyllis Rose’s book, “Parallel Lives: Five Victorian Marriages.”
“I had never sold the Dickens [portraits], Charles and Mrs. Dickens, because they were my favorite, so I wanted to hold onto them,” Schorr explained. “And Mrs. Dickens was completely destroyed; it was in a water-based medium. And Charles Dickens survived, but he’ll need to be restored professionally.”
Schorr stressed the competence of Physical Plant workers, who acted quickly to stop the flood and clean out the building.
“Don’t write anything without saying how grateful I was to the Physical Plant people, who were just wonderful,” he said.
According to Assistant Director for Mechanical Trades Mike Conte, the pipe that burst is an unusual 17 feet underground and runs beneath the Art Workshops building. When construction workers from the William Stamm & Son Inc. construction company began to excavate the site, they discovered a second leak.
Conte and Holman also said that the University might have additional work done at the CFA in order to better control the water in the center.
“We have been investigat[ing] waterproofing methods in the CFA complex,” Holman wrote.
Conte sees the incident as an opportunity to improve the complex.
“Never let a good crisis go to waste,” he said.
The printmaking process requires water, which was shut off on Monday morning until Wednesday afternoon. Schorr rearranged his class schedule so that he did not cancel any classes due to the flood. However, because of the lack of water, students weren’t able to continue working in the shop as they usually do.
“I don’t etch, so water wasn’t really a problem for me and my thesis will hopefully be fine, but the printmaking class that I TA lost an entire week of pretty important demonstrations and work time,” Palmer wrote.
Art Studio major Tiffany Gerdes ’13, who is also working on a thesis in the print shop, noted that the flood didn’t dramatically affect her thesis work either.
“It was only a minor handicap, really,” she wrote in an email to The Argus. “From working on my thesis last semester, I’ve come to expect all sorts of hangups. I can’t say that I was prepared for this one, but I’ve tried my best to calculate these types of obstacles into my working time. I think regardless of the flooding, everyone will be kicking it into high gear come show time.”
Malkin said that he would have preferred more information from the University on the matter.
“I think that this is something that it would have been good to send an email notification about,” he said.
Physical Plant turned on the water in the building, which was shut off on Sunday night, on Wednesday afternoon. They proceeded to flush the fire and domestic water systems to empty the pipes of settlement that accrued while the water was off.
“It wasn’t the end of the world and Wesleyan really performed well,” Schorr said.