Friday, March 10, 2006

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:


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