Steve Forster is one of many behind-the-scenes actors in Columbus that help maintain the city’s design legacy. Forster’s work with the Bartholomew Consolidated School Corporation (BCSC) preserves Columbus’ school buildings as places for students to learn and also as architectural landmarks. Forster will talk about the challenges and pleasures of his work at the Making & Maintaining session of “Foundations and Futures,” chaired by Tricia Gilson.
Forster is the director of facilities and operations of the BCSC, responsible for the operation and improvement of Columbus area elementary, middle and secondary schools. The BCSC’s schools are central characters in the cast of prominent buildings dotting the Columbus area. The Cummins Foundation Architecture Program was first conceived to address Columbus’ desperate need for well-designed modern schools in the post-war years. From Harry Weese’s 1957 Lillian Schmitt Elementary to Ralph Johnson’s 2007 Central Middle School, over a dozen Columbus schools regularly feature on lists of significant architecture in the community—and that doesn’t even consider the artworks and landscape architecture associated with each site. Forster says, “I take pride in the fact that our schools’ buildings and artwork are celebrated as landmarks,” adding, “I think it really reflects the amount of respect and investment we have put into education in Bartholomew county.”
As director of operations at BCSC, part of Forster’s role is to help maintain Columbus’ school facilities. That isn’t an easy job, especially when those facilities are also architectural landmarks—some of which are nearing 60 years old. Ensuring that these schools function properly is a vast task that includes maintenance, custodial duties, grounds management, transportation logistics, construction, and renovation. These day-to-day labors often go unrecognized when the art and architectural landmarks of the city are celebrated. It is the work of Forster, and the operations team that allows for students and users to experience these landmarks for themselves. Forster explained, “I think that the architecture helps inspire the students and visitor alike, which helps create a great learning environment.”
When asked about his hopes for the Making & Maintaining session, Forster said, “I hope that Exhibit Columbus helps the architecture and art in our schools inspire even more people.” Because of the tireless work of Forster and the operations team that keeps the schools running and making improvements, the legacy of Columbus’ investment in education through the architecture and art of its schools will survive to inspire the next generations of students and visitors.