Notre Dame arrives downtown at last

Author: Ed Cohen

In Notre Dame’s earlier years priests and brothers would patrol sections of downtown South Bend and drag students back to campus from areas deemed detrimental to their development.

Now the University has its own facility in the heart of the city.

Notre Dame Downtown opened in late October at 217 S. Michigan St. in a storefront that was once part of Robertson’s department store. It’s located across the street from the State Theatre and a few doors north of the landmark Dainty Maid Bake Shop.

The leased space houses Notre Dame’s Office of Community Relations, an art gallery and a studio for Notre Dame architecture students. Also, Downtown South Bend Inc., a nonprofit economic development group, has offices in the space.

Roberto Gutierrez, vice president for public affairs and communication, called the space an ideal location to “enhance and develop collaborative programs that will strengthen our ties to the South Bend community.”

That was already happening with the architecture school’s Urban Studio, established in 1999. The studio allows students to interact with design professionals and community leaders and to contribute to the urban evolution of South Bend.

The facility’s Crossroads Gallery, operated by the Snite Museum of Art, Institute for Latino Studies and Department of Art, Art History and Design, aims to showcase art as a community outreach tool.

Director of Community Relations Jackie Rucker ‘83 works from the facility, serving as a liaison to local and regional groups and coordinating the University’s involvement in the development of neighborhoods that surround campus.

Earlier last year the Latino Studies institute opened a separate outpost three blocks south of campus on Notre Dame Avenue. The space serves as an art studio and provides office and classroom space in support of community outreach initiatives.

One of those is the Young Artists Workshop, which gives talented middle- and secondary-school art students an opportunity to interact with staff and graduate students from the Snite Museum, art department and Latino Studies institute as well as learn about career opportunities in the visual arts.