Second-year printmaking graduate student Jessica Normington, 26, works on an installation for GRADhaus. The installation represents neurons working inside her head.

Marjorie Nunez, Alligator Staff

UF School of Art + Art History graduate students now have more space to create.

The new Graduate Research for Art Development studios, also known as GRADhaus studios, is a 7,000-square-foot warehouse complete with high ceilings, 25 partitioned studio spaces, wireless Internet and air conditioning.

It will officially open to the public at 7:30 p.m. Friday during Artwalk Gainesville. GRADhaus, which will be open for visitors at least once a semester, will be christened with a champagne toast.

The space, located at 818 NW First Ave., started being used in August by art and technology, creative photography, drawing, painting and printmaking graduate students.

“This space is as good as any warehouse-oriented graduate studio space in the country,” said Richard Heipp, director of UF’s School of Art + Art History. “I think our students are thrilled to finally have space that allows them to do the kind of work they want to do in a community-oriented environment.”

Prior to the move to GRADhaus this semester, Master of Fine Arts graduate students were using what Heipp described as “ad hoc spaces” such as old dorms in Ben Hill Griffin Stadium and basement areas in Norman Hall as art studios.

“Those were really not highly suitable for graduate studios but were the only spaces on campus we could get,” he said.

Quality of space is not the only improvement the new GRADhaus facility offers.

Rent for the off-campus studio costs 40 percent less than what was being paid in fees for the scattered studio spaces around campus, Heipp said. He wouldn’t disclose the amount.

“That was part of the reason we were allowed to pursue this,” Heipp said.

Heipp said that half of the about 50 graduate art students use the GRADhaus space, adding that some students have different studio space needs, like those studying ceramics or graphic design.

“We are trying to promote a community environment so that learning across disciplines happens much more frequently, rather than being isolated to their studios,” said GRADhaus studio space manager Logan Marconi.

Marconi, 28, is a third-year graduate student in painting. He spends 40 hours a week at GRADhaus using his studio while also making sure that the roughly 25 students follow the rules of the space outlined in their studio contracts.

GRADhaus, unlike past work spaces, has better air circulation and desegregation among concentrations. Heipp said it features cleaner, nicer, bigger and better-lit spaces.

“It really is a big upgrade,” Marconi said. “If you had seen the space that I was coming from, this is 100 times better.”