BOISE -- Boise State University officials broke ground Tuesday on a major project to construct a new Center for Fine Arts.

The five-story, $42 million building is expected to be complete by mid-2019, in time for the start of the fall semester.

Kathleen Keys, chair of the Department of Art, said the center "raises the profile" of visual arts, both on campus and beyond.

"To say that we're excited would be an understatement," she said. "This has been a long time coming. The trajectory of this building is going to alter the course of the Department of Art and the university, as well as impact visual arts in the community."

The center, which will include studios, classrooms and other work space, will also help consolidate the 400-odd art majors who are currently spread out across Boise State, Keys said.

"Currently, the art department is housed in five different facilities across campus, which kind of compromises our ability to intersect, to work together, to provide trans-disciplinary and interdisciplinary programming," she said. "This glorious new art building is going to change all that."

The new building will also feature a virtual-reality "world museum," which students can use to check out famous works from world-class museums around the globe.

Liz Altmiller, a sophomore in the College of Innovation and Design, is working to develop the structures that will bring the "augmented reality exhibit" to life.

On Tuesday, students and other visitors at the groundbreaking event used VR headsets to view a mock-up of what the museum will look like.

The final project will be even better, Altmiller said.

"You can go in, put on glasses and you'll be able to see classic works of art and be able to walk around them and interact with them," she said.

The center will also feature a virtual 3-D model of downtown Boise that allows users to zoom in, interact, and view the buildings from different angles.

"They will be able to come here and see things from all over the world - this will be a completely one-of-a-kind thing," Altmiller said. "This won't be available anywhere else in the United States."