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Opened for classes in late 1956, the Patio Building at Texas Woman's University is home to the 'Star Motif' located on the west wall facing Oakland Street. The motif was created by artist Coreen M. Spellman (Mary), former Art Professor at TWU. Along the second floor, the iron grating once held lovely mosaic tiles made by ceramic art students. Directly above the second floor, open grates held Plexiglas panes creating a stained glass effect that engulfed the courtyard below. When constructed, it was considered the most modern building on campus because of its unique design and air-conditioning; it is now home to graduate art students' studios. As TWU BOLDLY GOES forward, the Patio Building will be removed to make room for new innovations. Ultimately, the 'Star Motif' will find a place of honor elsewhere on campus, as a Pioneer tradition.


  • Color photograph showing the panels laid out in checkerboard pattern above the open courtyard circa 1950s. Courtesy of Texas Woman's University.
  • B/W photograph showing the students enjoying the courtyard of the Patio Building circa 1956. Courtesy of Texas Woman's University.
  • The "Star Motif" wall of the Patio Building was created by Coreen M. Spellman (Mary), TWU Professor of Art, and faces Oakland Street.
  • A closeup of the Star Motif wall on the Patio Building.  This helps show that Ms. Spellman was able to create a 3-D look even with brick.

The first artist rendering for the “Classroom Building” appeared in the 1955 yearbook, the Daedalian, for the Texas State College for Women (now known as Texas Woman's University). The two-page spread noted that this would be of a completely modern design, unlike any other building on campus, among the first air-conditioned building holding fourteen classrooms and eight offices. Construction on the building began in February 1955. Classes began being held in the fall semester of 1956. [1]

That same year, three other buildings were also being constructed on campus: the Library Science Building, the Health, Physical Education and Recreation Building, as well as the new Administration Building. The total cost of this huge expansion was approximately $1,250,000. The grand opening of all these buildings was held on Wednesday, May 9,1957 [2].

The “Patio Building” as it came to be known, is situated between the Arts and Sciences Building and the ACT Building. The west end faces Oakland St. and is home to the ‘Star Motif,’ a large brick mosaic of a star designed by Ms. Coreen M. Spellman (Mary), artist and Art professor at TWU. Ms. Spellman, a local Texas artist from Forney, was renowned in the art community locally and especially along the East Coast [3]. She was also a part of the ‘Forgotten Nine.’ These women were part of ‘The Dallas Nine,’ an artist group that highlighted the work of male artists. The women are considered ‘The Forgotten Nine’ because although they were accomplished artists, they were ignored based on their gender. Both the Dallas Nine and the Forgotten Nine (the names are misleading, as there were more than nine artists in each group), eschewed the art trends of the early 1930s-1940s and took inspiration from their surroundings instead of following European trends of the time. [4]

Ms. Spellman was instrumental in helping to spearhead some of the artistic activities in the area including the Dallas Artists League, which hosted informal discussion groups to provide a forum for an exchange of ideas, and also raise awareness of local artists and their work.  They were influential in the development of the Alice Street Art Carnivals, located in Dallas. This carnival was a street ‘fair’ of local artists that included both men and women, which was the first of its kind in the area. The ‘Star Motif’ was not a type of artwork that Ms. Spellman ever did before this nor after. [5]

In 1957 the Daedalian published the only known color photograph of the Classroom Building and it is mostly of the courtyard, not the actual building or the inside of the building. There are no photos of students enjoying the air-conditioning in the building; however, some photographs show the open grate across the top of the courtyard that served as a kind of ceiling which was adorned with colored panels of Plexiglas allowing the sun to shine through. This created a vibrantly colored courtyard consisting of a large grassy area with benches for students and instructors to relax or study or just enjoy the environment. [6]

The “Patio” Building has gone through many uses and name changes over the years. Today it is home to the Graduate Art Studios, where graduate art students create various forms of visual arts. According to TWU Planning & Design Services, this building will be removed in the near future because of structural concerns. The space left behind will become an addition to the ACT building. The University plans to retain the ‘Star Motif,’ as part of its dedication to preserving the history of trailblazing women. [7]

[1] Daedalian.  Yearbook.   Denton:  Texas State College for Women Press:  p 57.  1955

[2] Denton Record-Chronicle. “Dentonrc.com.” Denton Record-Chronicle.  May 8, 1957.      Afternoon Edition.  http://www.dentonrc.com/. 

[3] Kendall.  “SPELLMAN, COREEN MARY.” The Handbook of Texas Online| Texas State Historical Association      (TSHA). June 15, 2010. https://tshaonline.org//handbook/online/articles/fsp29.

[4] Curlee, Kendall.  Texas State Historical Association. https://tshaonline.org/handbook/online/articles/kjd01

[5] Daedalian.   Yearbook.   Denton:  Texas State College for Women Press:  p. 13.  1956.

[6] Daedalian.   Yearbook.   Denton:  Texas State College for Women Press:  p. 140. 1957.

[7] Interview with Project Manager, TWU Planning & Design Services 4:00p.m. Friday April 12, 2019

[8] Thompson, Joyce.  Marking A Trail.  Denton:  Texas Woman’s University Press, 1982.

PHOTOGRAPHS:

[1]  "Arts and Sciences Patio." UAP 11.4.1.  University Archives Photographs. University Archives.  Texas Woman's University, Denton, Texas. 

[2]  "Courtyard of TSCW Classroom Building (Patio Building)."  UAP 21.5.1.  University Archives Photographs.  University Archives. 1956. Texas Woman's University, Denton, Texas. 

[3]  "Campus Art." Woman's Collection.  Texas Woman's University.  Denton, Texas.   https://twu.edu/library/womans-collection/collections/university-archives/university-history/campus-art/

[4] "Brick Motif." [Brick Mural on TWU campus, 1956, by Coreen Mary Spellman], book, 2007;(https://texashistory.unt.edu/ark:/67531/metapth34976/m1/3/: accessed April 30, 2019), University of North Texas Libraries, The Portal to Texas History, https://texashistory.unt.edu; .