Not long before the end of last year, architect Rod Collman donated a vintage flat file to Dunedin Fine Art Center. On the day of this interview, he came armed with Dunedin Fine Art Center plans and drawings, circa 1997, to house in it. There’s still a drawer that bears the Art Center’s name in the flat file. Home Sweet Home.
Rod describes the drawings: “Construction drawings are like a recipe—all the ingredients, where they fit, how much.”
Everything at DFAC is interesting including the Main Campus structure, which has undergone several thrilling changes and expansions during its history. Starting as a draftsman in 1974 and later designing as an architect himself, Rod has had his pencil on every single one.
In the beginning, DFAC was designed by Rod Collman’s partner, architect Mel Schultz of Fasnacht and Schultz. As draftsman, Rod did the drawings and Ed Proefke (of Proefke and Neilsen at the time) was the contractor.
Rod reminisced about DFAC’s history and humble beginnings, touching on massive fundraising efforts by the women of Junior Service League of Clearwater-Dunedin and land acquisitions. At its very foundation? Community.
“They were successful in getting the land donated by the city which allowed the center to grow for 40 years so it has prospered with the land that we have. We’re getting to the limits of our property,” Rod says but he won’t give away the next chapter, only coyly offering, “I’ve planned the next expansion.” A smile breaks across his face followed by a happy laugh. He’s currently working on some of the drawings from his home studio.
On the topic of chapters, this next one could have been plucked from a dramatic novel:
Rod’s former wife passed in 2009. She worked at DFAC for a while, she was also a potter and took classes.
“During her five-year Cancer battle, she felt that I should marry Cindy Gorshe [another DFAC artist]. I said ‘nah, no way’ but as it turned out, we did.” Cindy is a painter, and her former husband was a potter, like Rod’s wife.
Rod and Cindy have been married almost 12 years now. We agree that his late wife knows best and that in a very provocative way, this tale speaks to the continuity of community shared at DFAC, both on a grand scale and on this very intimate level.
“I think it’s the art that brings individuals together,” Rod says. “It’s a common interest as much as anything but The Center is the vehicle that provides the platform with the art instruction and the exhibits.”
As an architect, he derives pleasure from his own creative process and appreciates the fruits of his labor.
“People walk inside and through my art. It’s not just a visual. They use it, it functions, and it stimulates (or depresses). It creates a lot of feelings. I think that’s really the big takeaway for me. That’s the rewarding part of this job.”
From DFAC and the adjacent Community Center to the Largo Public Library and Dunedin firehouses he’s designed, people are living, working, thriving, and saving lives in his spaces all over town. “It’s very heartwarming,” he says.
DFAC’s shiny, state-of-the-art teaching kitchen? Rod’s Design. The recent renovation of The Palm Café? Also his. “Basically, everything on the property.” Discussing the atrium or “Great Hall”, Rod offered, “It’s everything I dreamed it would be.”
“It’s where everything happens. Kind of like the heart and soul because all of the events happen in this space. It’s your arrival point. And your first impression. Then the studios are all about getting down to business.”
“I never really thought about it but most of my favorite buildings are museums related to art.” From a design perspective, he admires The Dali, and the new Museum of the Arts & Crafts Movement as well as The James Museum and Tampa Museum of Art locally.
On “the other west coast” Rod singles out The Getty in Los Angeles. “That is a special place. They weren’t allowed to take one scoop of dirt off that property and it’s a hill. And you had to repurpose all the dirt that you’re removing to make a flat area to build on so it’s very unique and the experience of going through that building is much like people experience here [at DFAC] because there are interesting vistas. They placed a window in just the right location to get a look at L.A. that you can’t see from anyplace else.”
Rod “did’ the Community Center next door. “That one spoke of curves.”
He continues, “This building [DFAC] was all about angles. Maybe it was the triangle on my desk that inspired me,” he says laughing. “Everything is NOT aligned and parallel. It’s askew to some degree. Just enough to make it realized but not disturbing.”
Do buildings have personalities, I asked? “Oh yes,” Rod says, “they speak to us and make us have emotions.”
Story and Photography by Leslie Joy Ickowitz