ISU Arts Group Plans Move Into Uptown Normal | WGLT

ISU Arts Group Plans Move Into Uptown Normal

Mar 18, 2019

UPDATED 9:40 p.m. | A community arts group at Illinois State University plans to renovate and move in to the unfinished ground floor of the College Avenue parking deck in Uptown Normal.

The Town of Normal announced Monday it’s in negotiations with Illinois Art Station (IAS), which launched in 2018 from a temporary headquarters on ISU’s campus. The group’s arts education programs and community outreach to date has included the painting of a mural inside a Constitution Trail tunnel under Washington Street in Bloomington.

Illinois Art Station’s foundation will spend at least $1.5 million to renovate the 12,000-square-foot Uptown space. Construction would be completed by March 2020.

“We believe the site and location will enable IAS to fully realize its mission, vision and commitments,” said Laura Berk, an ISU Distinguished Professor of psychology emerita and the founder and donor behind Illinois Art Station.

The space will include various studios where those 18 and under can learn how to do ceramics, stop-motion animation, photography, filmmaking, and other artforms, said Illinois Art Station Director Isra El-beshir. There will also be an exhibit space for student work and also visiting artists, she said.

"We're talking about a multipurpose space where artmaking takes place and the exhibition of art takes place," El-beshir said. "We're demystifying the creative process of the artist."

Berk said her group is working with Chicago-based architectural firm Perkins+Will, who’ve agreed to develop conceptual designs for the space free of charge. They also plan to work with an unnamed local architect on the building’s technical designs, Berk said.

The Town of Normal put a call out for potential tenants for the parking garage in February. IAS submitted the lone proposal, town officials said. Renovation will be privately funded.

Normal City Manager Pam Reece said Illinois Art Station will likely pay nothing to lease the College Avenue space.

Reece said because the parking deck was financed using bonds, “the town is limited based on IRS regulations on the kind of private activity revenue we can receive on that until our bonds are paid off.”

She said the town also wants the lease agreement to reflect the group’s planned investment in the space.

“The bonds will be paid off in a shorter timeline than I’m sure what they would like to stay in the space,” she said. “So we want to make sure that they are getting their investment’s worth in the space. But we certainly anticipate it being a long-term lease agreement, and the bonds will be paid off before their lease agreement expires."

Normal Mayor Chris Koos said the town was excited to see what Illinois Art Station "will bring to Uptown Normal."

“They have already shown a collaborative spirit that benefits the larger community, and this kind of diverse economic development is what the Uptown plan called for," Koos said in a statement. "We look forward to seeing how it will complement existing and future projects.”

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