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Creativity Center Fundraiser Faces Big Challenge

Front of the Creativity Center Building
City of Bloomington
WGLT file photo
Fundraising could get underway soon with the city's hiring of a new development director to raise money to renovate the former medical arts building for improved use by the city and creative arts organizations.

For five days earlier this summer, the air conditioning system went out at the Creativity Center on Chestnut and Locust streets, across from the Bloomington Center for the Performing Arts.

It was not unusual, but it did prompt the Summer Theater Camp and Celebrate America theater group to find practice space elsewhere.

"I would hate for some small child with Celebrate America to have to go to the hospital because they breathed in some very wet, pollinated air in the basement, for lack of a better word. When an air conditioner stops running, the air in the building just gets thicker and who knows what's floating around," said Bloomington Center for the Performing Arts Director Jim Mack, who said he was taking precautions in moving practices out of the building.

"There are certain things we just can't have and frankly there are certain things we just don't need."

The aging roof and heating and air conditioning system are among the reasons the former medical arts building is targeted for a major renovation. The City of Bloomington has hired a development director from out of state who next month will begin her job fundraising for the renovation. Mack did not want to identify the new hire yet, but she begins her job the first week of August—about the same time the city will announce the new season for the Bloomington Center for the Performing Arts.

Revising A Fundraising Target

In 2011, the building was targeted for $5.2 million in renovations, to be paid with donations and grants. However, Mack is not sure $5.2 million is a reasonable goal.  

"That is a lot of money to be raised in a community such as this at this time, and it could easily be argued that's unattainable," said Mack, who is going over previous community needs assessments and recommendations from past directors to determine the extent of the rehab.

"My position has always been to satisfy the greatest number of people with the best that we can offer at the price tag we can afford, and there are certain things we just can't have and frankly there are certain things we just don't need," said Mack.

There are several capital campaigns currently underway by various community organizations, including the Boys and Girls Club of Bloomington-Normal, the Bloomington-Normal YMCA and Easter Seals, The Miracle League, Illinois Fire Juniors Soccer and Illinois State University.

Former BCPA Director Tina Salamone, who died in 2017, envisioned the Creativity Center as a space for creative arts organizations and after-school programs involving the arts that could provide a creative outlet for underserved young people. As recently as 2016, Salmone admitted the renovations could be scaled down to $4.2 million by eliminating some of the high-end finishes for flooring and cabinetry included in plans created by Farnsworth Group.

According to the city's website, the building is currently used by Miller Park Summer Theater, BCPA Spotlight Summer Theater Workshop, Celebrate America which puts on the "Holiday Spectacular," and the BCAI School of Arts. Additionally, the city uses the building for various meetings and trainings.

Under an agreement the city council approved in March, the Friends of the BCPA would contribute $20,000 toward the cost of the development director's salary by 2020, increasing the contribution by an additional $20,000 in each of the following four years of the five-year agreement with the city. The agreement would automatically renew.

Mack is excited the fundraising process will be getting underway soon.

"I know there are a lot of folks out there and everybody has a different vision for what this place should be and how it should be used," he said.

In recognizing not everyone will get what they want out of the renovation he added, "That's how they do it in every other municipality across the country. You know they have the wish list and they have the reality list. I like to dream big but I'm still a realist," said Mack.

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