Wednesday, July 6, 2011

from a recent article in the Sun newspaper:

   Effort would provide space for Johnson County artists, art

Overland Park artist Nicole Emanuel hopes someday to introduce the local arts community to this building, which she envisions as a center for the arts. If developed as hoped, the three-level building in downtown Overland Park would be home to art studios, exhibits, events and offices. The lower two levels are at the back of the property.
The Johnson County arts community would have a central gathering and exhibition space if Nicole Emanuel can make her dream come true.
The Overland Park artist is working to secure funding to purchase a mostly vacant building in her city’s downtown area that could house art studios; office space for arts organizations; and areas for exhibits, events and perhaps workshops.
Emanuel has been active in arts organizations in Minneapolis, San Francisco and Kansas City. She has worked on building projects that provided both housing and studios for artists.
The idea for this new “art space” was triggered when she attended a recent forum organized by the Arts Council of Johnson County that brought together artists, arts organizations and arts educators.
“It was held to find out what their needs are and ways we can support what they are doing,” said Sarah VanLanduyt, executive director of the Arts Council.

The attendees sounded one theme again and again.
“We heard a desire to create a sense of community so artists can come together and work together and share resources,” VanLanduyt said.
Emanuel heard the same message, and also learned something that surprised her when she visited at the forum with Janet Simpson, executive director of the Kansas City Artists Coalition.
“She said that 50 percent of their members (live) in Johnson County,” Emanuel said. “I realized I’m not the only one (in the county) who’s probably working in their basement and needing (studio) space.”
Kansas City’s Crossroads District is the hub of the metropolitan area’s arts community, and Emanuel said she and other Johnson County-based artists mingle and work there. But for individuals like herself who are trying to balance an arts career and family responsibilities, it is inconvenient and often impossible to make regular treks to and from the Crossroads.
Emanuel’s project could bring many of Johnson County’s far-flung community art elements into their own central location. In fact, it might include individuals and groups from other parts of the metropolitan area.

Emanuel found her preferred site by accident. As she drove her children home from a gymnastics practice one day, she spotted the three-story building at 8100 Newton St. Its size, location and availability all seemed like a logical fit.
“I see the building, and I know from my background what it could be,” Emanuel said.
VanLanduyt and the Arts Council agree that the place and idea have appeal, and they are supporting the effort.
Emanuel said the council as well as the Overland Park Arts and Recreation Foundation and the Overland Park Friends of the Arts have expressed strong interest in placing their offices in the building if the plan comes together.
Even if negotiations with the building’s owner do not work out, Emanuel still plans to pursue the project at another location.
She has assembled the first draft of a financial plan for purchasing and operating an art center and presented it to two prospective lenders. An estimated 70 percent of the necessary funding would come from a loan and the rest from donations by foundations, corporations and individuals.
Rent charged for studios and offices would help pay off the loan. Emanuel much prefers to buy rather than lease whatever space is acquired.
“I know what happens. I’ve seen how that goes. Internationally, it’s a fact that when the arts community comes in and takes a place over its value increases and they price themselves out of it,” she said. “I’m starting a nonprofit and raising funds to buy the building for the community so we can control the rent so it’s affordable and won’t disappear.”
The building’s top two floors have been vacant for about 20 years, Emanuel said. A plumbing company occupies the lower floor and would be expected to stay. Everything still is in its early stages, but the plan is gaining traction and some buzz.

The long-vacant expanse might require an artist’s imagination to see the potential. The council and Emanuel definitely have a vision.
“The building has been gutted, so it essentially is a blank slate, which is wonderful,” VanLanduyt said.
The arts community would be good for the area, and the area would be good for the arts community, supporters believe.

“Downtown Overland Park has a number of locally owned art galleries, restaurants and boutiques, all of which would be attractive to an arts community,” VanLanduyt said.

As you can see, artists are ready and willing to find a place of  their own. I attended the tour of  the building in May and wasvery impressed with the facility and their plans for it. I can seethis happening! Hooray for Nicole Emanuel and her team....particularly the architect  chosen for the project, Ben Nanson!

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