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Rhode Island Institutions Launch Bachelor's Degree in Traditional Building Arts

NEWPORT, RI — In this city-by-the-sea defined by its rich history in boats and buildings, Salve Regina University has partnered with International Yacht Restoration School (IYRS) School of Technology & Trades and will begin offering a traditional building arts degree as part of its undergraduate cultural and historic preservation program.

Beginning in fall 2015, Salve Regina students can enroll in courses leading to the new 48-credit bachelor of science degree in CHP-TBA (cultural and historic preservation-traditional building arts) in what administrators believe is the only collaborative program of its kind in the country.

“This educational partnership blends theory and practice, and the past and the present in a unique way,” says Jane Gerety, RSM, Salve Regina president. “The integration will prepare students for meaningful and important work.”

The new bachelor’s degree track is a logical extension of the goals of the CHP program at Salve, which include the preparation of students to participate in and contribute to the practice of historic preservation in the U.S., explains Robert Russell, director of the Noreen Stonor Drexel Cultural and Historic Preservation program at Salve. “Further, one of the core goals of Salve is the ‘linking of the past, present and the future,’” he said. “This new track endeavors to do precisely that, resuscitating lost and nearly lost practices and materials connected with the traditional building arts and teaching them to a current generation of students so that they can become the future restorers of the country’s historic buildings.”

In addition to completing an undergraduate degree at Salve, students will also enroll in courses taught at IYRS, located in downtown Newport. Required courses at Salve will include: Introduction to Historic Preservation; Preservation Planning Studio; American Architectural Survey; and Preservation of Historic Cemeteries. Required courses offered at IYRS will include: CAD/CAM Technologies; Studio Building Arts I (woodworking, joinery and metalwork) and Studio Building Arts II (decorative and flat plaster, interior finishes and brick and stone masonry). Students will culminate their studies during the final semester of their senior years with a six-month, 15-credit apprenticeship with a preservation contractor, arranged through IYRS.

“This will be a full-on IYRS experience, deeply experiential, very hands-on, incorporating technology,” IYRS President Terry Nathan says of the student experience. “The Salve students will be side-by-side with students coming directly through the IYRS program, and we think that’s really important. We’ve had some wonderful experiences doing collaborative seminars. It’s incredibly interesting to see students from different backgrounds and skill-sets come together to work on the same things.”

 Russell said this unique partnership directly addresses a significant problem facing historic preservation in the country: the lack of craftsmen and -women adequately trained in the traditional building arts. Educational institutions, he says, must play a role in reviving these skills. “There are the traditional academic skills of inquiry and analysis, but in the case of the new CHP/TBA track, these are also the physical and tactile skills involved with the creation of useful and beautiful objects.

“The 20th century saw the almost complete disappearance of people capable of executing traditional designs in traditional and historically accurate materials,” he says. “The building trades developed along other lines and those who in the past were responsible for maintaining standards — owners of private companies, or unions — have largely forgotten that this was historically one of their most important jobs.”

For more information on the new CHP-TBA degree, contact Robert Russell at 401/ 341-3238 or Terry Nathan at 401/848-5777.