THESE SKETCHES show a planned addition to the University of Findlay’s Mazza Museum. The Joseph and Judith Conda STEAM Education Center will be the circular-shaped structure in the lower left of the sketch above. It will be built at the southeast corner of the Virginia B. Gardner Fine Arts Pavilion, which contains the Mazza Museum. Below is a sketch of the center’s interior, where students will be able to work on STEAM (science, technology, engineering, art and mathematics/medicine) projects. (Sketches courtesy of RCM Architects)

Staff Writer

The University of Findlay unveiled plans Wednesday for a STEAM-focused addition to the Mazza Museum.

The Joseph and Judith Conda STEAM (science, technology, engineering, art and mathematics/medicine) Education Center will display art, host robotic and engineering competitions, offer professional development, and provide resources for students of all ages.

The price tag for the project was not disclosed, but the Condas are the lead donors. The project will also be funded by additional donations and a $350,000 grant from the Ohio Facilities Construction Committee’s Cultural Grant Program, which UF earned in conjunction with Findlay City Schools.

STEAM “removes limitations, and replaces them with wonder, with critiquing, with inquiry and innovation,” said Ben Sapp, the director of the Mazza Museum.

The 4,000-square-foot addition will be built at the southeast corner of the Virginia B. Gardner Fine Arts Pavilion, which contains the Mazza Museum.

That puts the STEAM center “appropriately, in the middle of our campus, surrounded by art, science, performing arts, music, you name it. It’s in the middle of it all, as it should be,” said university President Katherine Fell.

Students won’t simply read books about STEAM subjects when they visit, Fell said. “They will be participating in its very creation, using those aspects of our world to create their own works of art, and certainly to watch the professionals create their own art. So we think this is going to be experiential learning at its best” for all students and other visitors.

Judith Conda first visited the Mazza Museum seven years ago on a trip with ambassadors from the Toledo Museum of Art.

She immediately loved the facility: “I knew this was something that we had to involve ourselves in.”

Despite her career in special education, she “really didn’t appreciate picture books in terms of the fact that they’re really windows on the world” until her involvement with the Mazza Museum.

The Condas, who live in Perrysburg, try to find projects that “are geared toward helping young people navigate their lives,” Judith Conda said.

The project “will reinvent Mazza, and create a leading-edge STEAM learning environment for current and future generations. That is big,” said Joseph Conda, a retired Owens-Illinois executive.

Findlay City Schools Superintendent Ed Kurt said he looks forward to the district having a spot “right in our backyard” to work on project-based learning in STEAM topics.

It’s a “great, great opportunity for Findlay City Schools and the entire area,” he said.

The Mazza Museum is the world’s largest collection of original artwork by children’s book illustrators. The museum’s website says its goal is to “promote literacy and enrich the lives of all people through the art of picture books.”

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