Alumnus Designs Furniture for Bo Bartlett Center

Keith Smith had never built a piece of furniture, but he is now creating shelves to display the works of internationally acclaimed artists.

Smith, a 2016 B.F.A. Columbus State alumnus, specializes in sculptures. He is particularly skilled at fabricating art from metal, but he’s learned to apply his craft beyond art. He has built a variety of items for the CSU art department, from a forge that heats metal to a bridge-like crane structure called a gantry. His versatility and precision have left an impression on one of his former professors, Michael McFalls.

“Keith is very patient and a perfectionist. It really comes out in the quality of his craftsmanship. His precision stops you in your tracks,” said McFalls. “Anyone who sees his craft immediately says ‘Wow, how can I get one of those?’”

When McFalls was approached by David Houston, Executive Director of the Bo Bartlett Center, about getting help on custom-built furniture for the center, McFalls knew just who to call. “I was headed out of the country for a fellowship in Australia, and I knew I wouldn’t have the time to take on the project. I recommended Keith and told David that Keith’s fabrication skills are as good as mine.”

Smith, who works as a studio lab technician at CSU and as a paint instructor at Brushes and Beverages, took on the project as a third job. He began building two tables and shelves for the new center with help from colleague, Mark Holden. Smith collaborated with Houston on the design, ensuring that the pieces followed the specific style that architects had in mind for the center. After a couple of months of working part time on the project, the pieces were finalized. McFalls returned from his fellowship and was impressed by the quality of the finished product.

“My first thought was that I wanted one. They are beautiful, custom pieces that are unique and fit perfectly with the style of the Bartlett Center,” McFalls said.

Houston was not disappointed either. He has since enlisted Smith’s help with an additional 16 pieces, including stands and display cases.

While Smith’s passion is still in sculptures, he is glad that the project broadened his horizons and says he is open to accepting new furniture projects. “It has been nice to realize that something in art can lead to everyday purposes,” said Smith. “It increases my craft. Anything that can add to my knowledge base that can be used for future projects is nice to know,” Smith said.

Scheduled to open this month, the Bo Bartlett Center will be an 18,425 square foot interactive gallery space for exhibitions, concerts, lectures and film.