Open­ing Soon

In­side a down­town land­mark, work is near­ing com­ple­tion on the Ha­zle­ton Art League’s new home.

The Hazleton Standard-Speaker - - FRONT PAGE - BY JIM DINO STAFF WRITER

The new home of the Ha­zle­ton Art League will have dou­ble — and even­tu­ally triple — the space it has now.

Some­time later this year, the league will move from its long-time home at 225 E. Broad St. to the for­mer Se­cu­rity Sav­ings build­ing at 31 W. Broad St.

Kathy Best­wick, co-pres­i­dent of the art league’s board of di­rec­tors, who founded and ran an art league in Phoenixville, Ch­ester County, said the move will be made when the sec­ond of three phases of con­struc­tion are com­plete later this year.

“The gallery space on the first floor of the new build­ing will dou­ble what we have now,” Best­wick said. “On the lower level, the ce­ramic stu­dio will be much im­proved from what we have now. There will be a stained glass and fused glass stu­dio. We have a very ro­bust stained glass and fused glass group of artists.”

With the build­ing’s elec­tri­cal, plumb­ing, me­chan­i­cal and fire sup­pres­sion sys­tems up to code — and new hand­i­capped-ac­ces­si­ble re­strooms — con­struc­tion will be­gin to trans­form the for­mer bank lobby into the art gallery, where ex­hibits and other spe­cial events will be held.

Krista Sch­nei­der, ex­ec­u­tive di­rec­tor of the Down­town Ha­zle­ton Al­liance for Progress, said the $1.2 mil­lion in grants raised for the first phase of the project, code ren­o­va­tions, was matched by $1.2 mil­lion in pri­vate funds raised for the sec­ond phase of the project, ren­o­va­tions to the first floor and base­ment.

In the third and fi­nal phase of con­struc­tion — for which funds have not yet been iden­ti­fied — the sec­ond floor will be ren­o­vated.

“The gallery is open on two floors,” Best­wick said. “They are go­ing to make a cat­walk around the out­side perime­ter of the room, off the bal­cony of the board room. There will be a sec­ond level. We will dou­ble the ex­hibit space from when we ini­tially get into the build­ing. This (new) gallery is big­ger than the gallery we have. Once they put the mez­za­nine in, it will dou­ble the whole thing again.”

Best­wick hopes the new gallery will do for Ha­zle­ton what the Ba­nana Fac­tory did for Beth­le­hem.

“A vis­ual arts cen­ter was cre­ated there be­cause there was money that was earned through Musik­fest and needed to be rein­vested in the com­mu­nity,” she said. “Then they got fund­ing from Cray­ola to cre­ate a sec­ond gallery space. When they added that sec­ond gallery space, and could have two ex­hibits run­ning con­cur­rently, rev­enue from art sales and the ex­cite­ment from their pres­ence in the com­mu­nity went sky high.”

Dr. Carl Frankel, art league co-pres­i­dent, said the ex­panded gallery will give the or­ga­ni­za­tion a chance to show off all it has.

“We have a large per­ma­nent col­lec­tion,” Frankel said. “We can’t ex­hibit it. We have some of it on the walls (at its present lo­ca­tion), but this is a small frac­tion of what we have. So the in­creased space will al­low us to have more of our per­ma­nent col­lec­tion on ex­hibit.”

The back of the first floor — where bank of­fices were lo­cated — will be­come a dig­i­tal arts stu­dio, a chil­dren’s class­room and a kitchen.

“It’s a big step for us to have a ded­i­cated chil­dren’s class­room, be­cause now we just put them wher­ever we can put them,” Frankel said, “We’ve never had a dig­i­tal stu­dio.”

Best­wick said the art league has many plans for the kitchen, in­clud­ing work­ing with col­leges in the area and al­low­ing catered events as a fundraiser.

“We can part­ner with busi­nesses that want to de­velop their food pro­gram,” she said. “Some­thing that we don’t have here is to ac­tu­ally rent that space out as an event space. So you have this huge gallery, and if busi­nesses wanted to hold events there, pri­vate par­ties, we would have a full kitchen for ca­ter­ing those events. I’m sure we will be able to use the kitchen for sev­eral dif­fer­ent types of pro­gram­ming.”

The down­town al­liance re­ceived a $50,000 grant from the U.S. Depart­ment of Agri­cul­ture to build the kitchen, Sch­nei­der said.

The com­puter arts class­room, also on the first floor, also will have many uses, Best­wick said, in­clud­ing be­ing open to lo­cal col­leges.

It is un­like any­thing the art league has now.

“There has al­ready been fund­ing do­nated for the hard­ware and soft­ware. We will have the abil­ity to of­fer graphic arts and pho­tog­ra­phy. So much is done with dig­i­tal pho­tog­ra­phy these days,” Best­wick said. “If you have a com­puter class­room, and you wanted to work with se­nior cen­ters and bring peo­ple in, there are so many op­por­tu­ni­ties.”

The art league hasn’t yet made plans for one part of the first floor and the en­tire sec­ond floor.

Of­fice space on the first floor is du­pli­cated on the sec­ond floor, which in­cludes the old bank’s board­room. It has a mar­ble fire­place with ma­hogany ac­cent, and ma­hogany half­way up the walls. There is stained glass above the board­room, over­look­ing the old bank space.

“Randi Pachence is de­sign­ing a stained glass pane for the Broad Street en­trance,” Best­wick said. “With the phase three space, we want to see what the com­mu­nity brings for­ward, what in­ter­ests they de­velop, specif­i­cally, what type of art classes are re­quested.”

One area that will be a big part of the new arts cen­ter is the park next door.

“The main en­trance will be fac­ing the new city park at Broad and Lau­rel streets, and it will be canopied,” said Ali McKit­trick, the art league’s ex­ec­u­tive di­rec­tor. “The park al­ready has fund­ing through DHAP to be com­pletely ren­o­vated, so it is re­ally go­ing to add value to the space.”

“The cool thing about this cen­ter is that it opens up onto the park, and we are plan­ning to make use of the park for out­door-in­door fes­tiv­i­ties,” Frankel said.

McKit­trick said the arts cen­ter, Broad and Bar­rel pub, Dragon Chi­nese restau­rant and Penn State LaunchBox job in­cu­ba­tor rep­re­sent a $40 mil­lion in­vest­ment.

“It was the most va­cant block in the whole down­town, and now it’s go­ing to be re­ally alive,” Frankel said.

Park­ing will be avail­able in the North­side Park­ing Plaza to the rear and along nearby streets.

The cur­rent art league build­ing is up for sale.

“It is on the mar­ket, and a lot of peo­ple have come to see it,” Best­wick said. “We have an in­ter­ested buyer, but we are just in the be­gin­ning stages of ne­go­ti­a­tion. Any­one who buys it would not oc­cupy it un­til we move out.”

Work con­tin­ues on the new city arts cen­ter in down­town Ha­zle­ton. Above is the main floor as it looks now; at right is how an ex­hibit might ap­pear. Draw­ings at top show what the arts cen­ter’s chil­dren’s stu­dio, left, and kitchen might look like once the new home of the Ha­zle­ton Art League is com­plete.



East­bound mo­torists on Broad Street will see this view of the new city arts cen­ter now un­der con­struc­tion in the for­mer Se­cu­rity Sav­ings build­ing in down­town Ha­zle­ton. The artist’s sketch was in­cluded in a book­let for the Bank­ing on the Arts cap­i­tal cam­paign.

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