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University of Houston art students return to flooded studio after winter break (just like last year)

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The Fine Arts Building at the University of Houston, which also houses the Blaffer Art Museum Photo via Glasstire.com

Returning from winter break, students in the University of Houston's graduate painting program found their studios filled with fans . . . and, no, it wasn't an installation from the School of Art's Interdisciplinary Practice and Emerging Forms department.

The fans were there to dry out the space after a leak in a mechanical closet dumped an inch of water across the concrete floors of the fourth-floor studios in the Fine Arts Building. A similar flooding situation occurred in the studio at this time in 2011, when a frozen pipe burst in the same closet.

 First-year painting grad Jamie Davis said the studio area looked like "a little pond" when she and her husband, Christie, discovered the leak.

 "Let me tell you, the angels were looking after us on this one," said Pat Deeves, assistant director of the School of Art, who oversees much of the building's daily functions. "We were lucky enough to have a grad student in the studio at the time. She reported the leak right away."

First-year painting grad Jamie Davis said the studio area looked like "a little pond" when she and her husband, Christie, discovered the leak on Saturday around 11 a.m. and quickly informed UH officials.

"We immediately moved all the paintings on the floor in the hallway," Davis said. "But everything else was locked inside individual studios, so we had to call every person in the studio."

The university contacted a water damage firm Cotton, which began clearing the water with wet vacs about a half hour later according to Davis. The company has since removed rubber edging around the floor to allow the sheet rock to dry with the aid of good ol' fashioned industrial-strength fans. Cotton will assess moisture levels later this week.

While the leak was miraculously discovered soon after it began, the incident still claimed a number of paintings.

Designed by Houston-based CRSS architects, which merged with the global design behemoth HOK in 1994, the University of Houston fine arts building opened its doors in 1972. Four decades later, the structure is seeing some of it biggest renovations to date, as the Blaffer Art Museum embarks on an ambitious project led by noted New York architects WORKac.

Pat Deeves noted that the mechanical issues in the graduate studios had nothing to do with the Blaffer construction, which is underway on the opposite side of the Fine Arts Building.

Students report that the walls and floors of the fourth-floor studio area already appear dry.

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