After months of steel girders and gray cement, the new Lawrence Arts Center in the 900 block of New Hampshire is beginning to take life.
"As soon as the roof is on, we can do the elevators," Ann Evans, the center's executive director, said. "We will have heat in a few weeks. Once this is in, it will move quickly, and they'll be able to work no matter what the weather is."
The 40,000-square-foot structure of gray brick, glass and metal, designed by Glenn Livingood Penzler and Miller, will open next spring.
Until then, Evans and her fund-raising committee will be busy gathering the remaining $250,000 needed to pay for the facility. Already they have collected $2.75 million for the $3 million project.
While they are continuing to solicit large gifts from businesses and individuals, Evans said she hopes people take advantage of the center's ceramic tile painting project. People can purchases tiles -- $30 each or four for $100 -- and then paint them. The tiles will be installed in the stairwell and reception area of the building's lower level.
About 500 tiles have been sold and painted so far.
"It raises money, but it lets everyone have some pride and ownership in the new facility," Evans said. "Before the end of the year, we hope to sell thousands of tiles."
The tiles will join other artists' works at the center: six stainless benches by Jody Brown in the galleries; three cherry and mahogany benches by Will Ordeval and Rick Stein in the lobby; six copper lighting fixtures by Steve Richardson in the lobby; mosaic glass tiles by Shanna Wagner in the interior of the elevator; an exterior sign of concrete, stainless steel and fiber optic cable by David Vance; and a bandera sandstone floor by Karl Ramberg in the exterior plaza area.
"We believe our mission is to support local artists," Evans said. "Over the years, the artists have been so generous to us, so this is another way to thank them."
The new arts center will quadruple the size of the current facility. The multi-level building includes a performance hall; new studios for painting, drawing, ceramics, printmaking, jewelry, writing and dance; preschool classrooms; exhibition and sales galleries; and offices for administrative staff and community arts groups.
Evans said the arts center staff and committee members have been evaluating the organization's programming and considering how it will grow once the move is made to New Hampshire Street.
"We will increase staff," Evans said. "We will add a technical director, and more administrative help and maintenance."
Some part-time instructors may become full-time studio managers. Development/fund-raising and systems manager positions may be created.
"We have a big picture (of what the new facility should offer) but the specifics will work themselves out," Evans said.
Evans said the opening of the new center will be marked with a month-long celebration that will encompass private and public events.
"We've had wonderful support from donors, city commissioners, volunteers, artists on committees, the city manager, the people who use us, the board and staff," Evans said. "It wouldn't be happening without the community support we've had. It's been such a group effort."
-- Features-arts editor Jan Biles can be reached at 832-7146.