Arts center could find home in lumberyard
Where people once went for lumber could soon be a place for them to view an art display or see a play.
Plans are underway to convert the Ives Hartley Lumber Co. building, which until recently housed the Baldwin Lumber Co., into a community arts center.
Plans haven't been finalized, but Sandy Cardens said the Baldwin Community Arts Council is hopeful the downtown brick building at 718 High St. will be transformed into an arts center.
"No one has said to me this can't be done. But several people have said to me this will be a big undertaking, which it will be." Cardens, BCAC president, said. "I don't see this happening all at once. I see it as a five-year project."
She said the BCAC wants a community center that will centralize Baldwin's arts activities, events and projects while benefiting Baldwin's downtown.
"We want to revitalize downtown as well as promote the arts for every age group," she said.
"I think the arts are important to this community," she said. "A great number of people in this small town have a large interest in the arts."
A rough draft of the arts center maps out space for an exhibit gallery, a theater, a brick-lined courtyard, some classrooms, a kitchen and a retail area.
Cardens said other than the Baker University student-run Art Affair and Baker's Holt/Russell Gallery on campus, there are no other galleries in Baldwin to display art exhibits.
She said the idea is to have a place for local artists to display and sell their art, as well as space for art classes, workshops and plays.
She said it would even be possible to host art exhibits from across Kansas.
"It's not a community center in the respect that it would cover everything," she said. "We want a central area for all of the arts-related activities."
The center would be similar to what the Lawrence Arts Center offers now, she said.
"Only on a much smaller scale."
She said the arts center won't be a business venture for the BCAC.
"I like to look at whatever we do in there as an adjunct to whatever's already being offered in the community," she said.
While the interior of the building will need an overhaul, Cardens said she wants the front of the building to remain much like it is now.
"We want to make sure we keep the facade as it is," she said. "It's important it stays the same. That's what gives it the flavor.
"I think it's also important to preserve this building," she said. "It adds to the quaintness of the area. It's important we preserve these buildings downtown."
Cardens said the first step in making the arts center a possibility is working with Baldwin State Bank, which owns the Ives Hartley building.
"At this point, we're waiting for the bank to tell us what they need us to do to allow us to move forward with other planning," she said.
Once an agreement is worked out with Baldwin State Bank, she said BCAC will have a community meeting to get input on ideas for the center.
"We need people to step up and say they'll help," she said. "We can't do it without the community."
She said BCAC also won't be able to get the arts center past the planning stages without money.
"The biggest hurdle, initially, is the money to get started," she said. "We're looking for money from a couple of major donors and we're looking for funding from foundations."
She said BCAC is already beginning to write grant proposals to get the needed funding.
Many community members, Cardens said, have already offered their services, whether in materials or labor, which is what the arts center will require.
"We can't do it by ourselves," she said.
She hopes the arts center would fulfill the community arts needs while becoming an attraction to the downtown area.
"It could even be the start of bringing in some other artsy related businesses to some empty stores downtown," she said. "That's my hope."
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