Arts center proposal unveiled
Warehouse would be turned into galleries, performance space, training kitchen
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.
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.