The Elginite - Elgin blog: Kresmery Art Center anyone?
The more I examine this picture of Kurt Kresmery's warehouse on the old Waverly House site, the more impressed I am. To me, it looks like an ingenius blend of several styles--Classical Revival, Commercial/Chicago, Deco perhaps. It's really beautiful. A little cleaning would make it look marvelous. Since the Courier's story seemed to suggest that Mr. Kresmery may still be considering ways to reuse the building, I thought I would mention one possible use: an art center. Many other communities have them. They're frequently housed in an old industrial building. And I think this building is particularly suited for the purpose.Have you been to Lillstreet Art Center in Chicago? I was there one time last year to examine their pottery studios and their ceramics. I was really impressed. It would be great to see something like that in Elgin.The benefits of an art center extend beyond those who use it. It can catalyze urban renewal. Look at what happened in South Florida:
ArtCenter was established in 1984 by a small group of artists who envisioned a potential cultural renaissance in what was then a blighted and vacant Lincoln Road. In partnership with the City of Miami Beach, the group obtained Federal Community Development Block Grant funds to acquire properties and create an artists' colony in 21 storefront spaces. Since then, ArtCenter has become the cultural and economic catalyst for the revitalization of the Lincoln Road neighborhood and South Beach. In 1986, the City of Miami Beach recognized the success of our founders' vision by designating ArtCenter's three-block area as the Lincoln Road Arts District.
Today, Lincoln Road is a lively magnet for culture, entertainment, retail business and community activity, and Miami Beach is arguably the cultural center of South Florida. Now recognized as one of Miami-Dade County's major cultural institutions, ArtCenter operates from its three historic buildings at 800, 810 and 924 Lincoln Road. The nearly 60,000 square foot campus encompasses 52 artists' studios, exhibition galleries, art education classrooms and administrative offices. Of the 7.2 million international and national visitors to Miami/South Beach annually, hundreds of thousands walk down Lincoln Road and view ArtCenter's display windows and
exhibitions. For its role in the shaping of South Florida's cultural landscape, ArtCenter has received recognition from local media such as New Times, which in 1997 called us the "best gallery in Miami", and from national media such as The Wall Street Journal, which in 1998 reported that our "presence has transformed the area...into a hub of commerce." In its May and November 1999 issues featuring the Greater Miami art community, Art in America magazine highlighted ArtCenter's "impact on the Miami art scene and its emerging profile" describing ArtCenter as "a gathering place for talented and ambitious young Miami artists."
(source: ArtCenter South Florida website)
These art centers are generally run by nonprofits, which means Mr. Kresmery may need to accomplish this transformation from "blight" to destination through a great act of philanthropy, donating the building to a nonprofit and taking the deduction against his River Park Place profits. Since property prices are currently inflated, this may be more financially attractive than it sounds.Here are some community art centers, which may give you an idea of what a Kresmery Art Center might look like:
Lillstreet Art Center (Chicago)
Kimball Art Center (Park City, Utah)
Lawrence Arts Center (Lawrence, Kansas)
ArtCenter/ South Florida (Miami Beach, Florida)
Gallery 37 Center for the Arts (Chicago)
Steamboat Springs Art Council (Steamboat Springs, Colorado)
Sedona Arts Center (Sedona, Arizona)
The Elginite - Elgin blog: More about an arts center
Last week I mentioned the possibility of an art(s) center in Elgin. I may not have been clear about what I meant. Some museums call themselves art centers, but by art center I didn't mean museum (though Elgin can use one of those too). What I meant was a place that offers art programs and instruction, galleries, studios and so on; a place where artists work, not just a place where their works are displayed. Here are some more examples: Artspace Fort Worth Community Arts Center Arlington Center for the Arts Beverly Arts Center - Chicago Contemporary Artists Center (CAC) - North Adams Torpedo Factory Art Center - AlexandriaThe last two of these are especially interesting. Both are housed in massive old industrial buildings. The Beaver Mill, home of the CAC, is a 130,000 sq ft historic brick and stone mill... The CAC comprises 25,000 sq ft of the building and houses five galleries, a residency hall, and approximately 12,000 sq ft of studio space. (source: CACNorth Adams)Yeah that's big. As for the Torpedo Factory, it has 3 levels of 84 artist studios, 8 group studios and 6 galleries. The Torpedo Factory's experience may be instructive for Elgin: Work began on the building in May of 1974, with artists and the City of Alexandria working together to renovate, build and clean out the interior...By July, artists had converted the huge space into a complex of bright and clean studios. Most of the studio spaces had been reserved by that time from a list of juried artists.By 1983, the building needed major repairs and improvements. As part of a sale/lease-back agreement (a use of special federal tax provisions allowing for renovation of historic buildings), the building was sold to Alexandria Art Center Associates, leased back from AACA by the City, and subleased to the Torpedo Factory Artists' Association. As part of the sale agreement, the City had a one time repurchase option to be exercised in 1998.The City Council approved the repurchase on August 31, 1998. The purchase price was negotiated in a prescribed series of appraisals. A balloon payment from the original loan to AACA in 1983 covered most of the purchase cost.In the lease agreement that ran from 1983 to 1998, the City was responsible on an annual basis for many operating costs, a percentage of real estate taxes, and 1/3 of the utilities in addition to annual rent payments. Since 1983, the City and the artists have split equally the operating costs of the Art Center including the payroll for city staff.In 1994, the Office of Budget and Management did a management study of the Art Center. At this time a recommendation to "privatize" the Art Center in 1998 was made by the City Manager. Over the last two years, the Artists' Association and the City have negotiated parameters which govern the privatization.On September 1, 1998 the Artists' Association took over all management of the building, and the City now acts as landlord. Factored into the artists' rent were the repurchase cost in excess of the balloon payment, including 62% (a number based on the artist-occupied percentage of the building) of the interest, general service operating costs, and all future maintenance and repair costs excluding exterior repairs. The artists are responsible for 62% of utility costs. All other operating costs are borne by the artists, including all administrative, janitorial, security, staff, advertising, printing, minor building maintenance, lighting supplies, and insurance for the entire building. (source: Torpedo Factory)In my view, projects like this may offer a higher return and incur fewer risks than the boondoggles to which we have become accustomed.