The first phase of renovations stemming from a $5 million capital campaign is expected to begin in January at Bloomington’s Creativity Center.
Supporters have big plans for the former medical building near the Bloomington Center for the Performing Arts (BCPA), on the north edge of Downtown Bloomington. They want to create music rooms, studios, conference and rehearsal space, and a black box theater inside the Creativity Center, which has long been envisioned as the educational arm of the BCPA.
Before any of that can happen, the Creativity Center building needs a new roof and HVAC system. The Bloomington City Council on Dec. 9 approved hiring Springfield-based Henson Robinson Co. for $506,078 in roof and HVAC upgrades—a lower-than-expected price tag for the work, said Friends of the BCPA and Creativity Center development manager Cara Peterson. That work—all privately funded—is expected to begin in January, weather permitting, she said.
The Creativity Center campaign already had around $1 million in the bank, raised back in 2005. With the lower cost for the roof and HVAC work, that leftover money—all privately raised—will be used on Phase 2 of the project, Peterson said. Phase 2 encompasses converting the interior space to the black-box theater, dance studio, music studios, rehearsal space, gallery spaces, recording studio, office space for arts organizations and BCPA staff, and the multiuse rooms, she said.
“That’s really the heart and soul of the building, in Phase 2,” Peterson said.
The $5 million campaign was announced in April, and it’s expected to take 3 to 5 years to achieve. An additional $150,000 has been raised since then, Peterson said. Almost 250 people attended the Creativity Center’s kickoff fundraising event in October, called ArtGasm, Welcome to Wonderland. A 2020 version is being planned.
Large-dollar grants are also expected to play a role.
“Right now, we’re looking at a couple big grants that might come through this next year, which would get us a majority of the way,” Peterson said. “We’re really excited about what 2020 holds for us financially in our progress.”
Something that could help with that is the new Cultural District designation that the Bloomington City Council approved in May for much of Downtown Bloomington, including the Creativity Center. That designation was expected to provide the city with additional opportunities for grants from private enterprises and philanthropic organizations.
The Creativity Center campaign is targeting two grants that require a Cultural District designation—one from the National Endowment for the Humanities, the other from the National Endowment for the Arts. They’ve applied for the NEA grants already, and they’ll apply for the NEH grant in May, Peterson said.
“We were really excited and hopeful after the approval of the Cultural District as it opens up more opportunity for grants and collaboration with other organizations,” Peterson said.
Money may also be available from the state. The state's new capital plan includes $50 million for arts-related facility and infrastructure projects.
Once completed, Peterson said the Creativity Center will fill an important need in Bloomington-Normal. Groups like the Boys & Girls Club and YMCA provide opportunities for kids, and Normal’s Activity and Recreation Center caters to older residents, she said.
“This center gets to provide arts opportunities for people of all ages, which is something that Bloomington-Normal definitely does not have currently,” Peterson said.
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