Arts cen­ter pro­posal un­veiled

Ware­house would be turned into gal­leries, per­for­mance space, train­ing kitchen

The Morning Call - - FRONT PAGE - By Margie Peter­son

A group of artists and arts ad­vo­cates are plan­ning to turn a va­cant ware­house in Em­maus into an arts cen­ter with spa­ces for per­for­mances, art gal­leries, stu­dios, re­hearsal and in­struc­tion rooms and a com­mer­cial kitchen for a culi­nary pro­gram.

The or­ga­niz­ers came be­fore Bor­ough Coun­cil on Mon­day to lay out their pro­posal to trans­form the 35,000-square-foot build­ing at 375 S. 10th St. into the Em­maus Cre­ative Arts & In­no­va­tion Cen­ter by Fur­nace Dam Park. The ware­house is owned by Phoebe Min­istries, which is trans­form­ing the for­mer Ro­dale cam­pus into a se­nior liv­ing com­mu­nity called Ch­est­nut Ridge at Ro­dale.

Or­ga­niz­ers of the non­profit cen­ter en­vi­sion hav­ing arts in­struc­tion, an art gallery, a black box theater, re­hearsal and per­for­mance spa­ces for mu­si­cians and dancers, and a culi­nary arts area em­pha­siz­ing lo­cal farm pro­duce at a com­mer­cial kitchen.

At­tor­ney Au­drey Gard­ner Racines, vice president of the arts cen­ter group, told coun­cil that she loves Em­maus but al­ways thought there were two things miss­ing in the bor­ough: a se­nior liv­ing com­mu­nity and an arts cen­ter.

“I don’t know, you can say I had Ba­nana Fac­tory envy or what­ever,” Racines said. With Phoebe cre­at­ing a re­tire­ment com­mu­nity, the arts cen­ter would fill the other void, she said.

“I think that hav­ing this cen­ter in Em­maus will help keep Em­maus an ex­cep­tional place to live,” Racines said.

Or­ga­niz­ers de­clined to spec­ify when they hope to start and fin­ish con­struc­tion in the ware­house, say­ing much of the sched­ule will de­pend on fundrais­ing for the project.

James R. Baker, an Em­maus busi­ness­man who is lead­ing the group, said sev­eral peo­ple be­gan ex­plor­ing the idea of an arts cen­ter about two years ago, and those num­bers have swelled to about 70 peo­ple. The or­ga­ni­za­tion in­cor­po­rated as a non­profit this year.

“We had a vi­sion and the vi­sion was to place visual arts, per­form­ing arts, and culi­nary arts all un­der one roof with a maker space … with a fo­cus on

“This is, by far, one of the most ex­cit­ing things hap­pen­ing in this bor­ough for a long time.”

— Coun­cil President Brent Laben­berg

col­lab­o­ra­tion, in­clu­sion, all ages in the com­mu­nity to see what would hap­pen,” Baker said. “We re­ally felt if you put a black box theater with a maker space that might help make the sets for the theater or the cos­tumes for the theater and gal­leries to show­case what some of the very cre­ative peo­ple in the com­mu­nity can make … we thought magic would hap­pen. That’s our vi­sion.”

Rep­re­sen­ta­tives of Phoebe said they’re ex­cited about Ch­est­nut Ridge at Ro­dale hav­ing an arts cen­ter for a neigh­bor.

“We could not pos­si­bly think of a bet­ter use for the ware­house on the beau­ti­ful cam­pus,” said Lisa Fichera, chief op­er­at­ing of­fi­cer for Phoebe, who added it will greatly ben­e­fit both the res­i­dents of Ch­est­nut Ridge and other Em­maus ci­ti­zens. “Bring­ing and en­hanc­ing in­ter­gen­er­a­tional ac­tiv­i­ties in a won­der­ful com­mu­nity like Em­maus is a dream for us.”

The an­nounce­ment was also met with en­thu­si­asm from coun­cil mem­bers.

“This is, by far, one of the most ex­cit­ing things hap­pen­ing in this bor­ough for a long time,” coun­cil President Brent Laben­berg said.

In other busi­ness, Coun­cil­woman Teri Sorg-McMana­mon an­nounced that 9 a.m. to noon Satur­day, Wild­lands Con­ser­vancy will hold a com­mu­nity plant­ing ses­sion at Em­maus Pub­lic Li­brary. They will plant wild­flow­ers and trees. The pub­lic can learn more about it at wild­landspa.org.

CON­TRIB­UTED IM­AGE

A group of artists and arts ad­vo­cates plans to turn a va­cant ware­house in Em­maus into an arts cen­ter with spa­ces for per­for­mances, art gal­leries, stu­dios, re­hearsal and in­struc­tion rooms.

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