ArtsLab breaks ground

Construction of the ArtsLab is expected to be completed by December.

Construction is expected to begin soon on a $1.6-million, 8,000-square-foot project that will include an addition to the Auer Center for Arts & Culture that will serve as a multiuse space for local arts organizations.

A ceremonial groundbreaking for the project at 300 E. Main St. was held May 29.

The so-called ArtsLab project is being spearheaded by Arts United of Greater Fort Wayne and was made possible through donations of $500,000 from the Madge Rothschild Foundation and $300,000 from the American Electric Power Foundation.

Dan Ross, director of community development at Arts United, said the organization is close to raising the remainder of the project money.

If need be, he said, Arts United can dip into a $5.5-million capital fund used to maintain buildings the organization owns and operates, but “our preference is to fully fund this (project) and use those (capital) funds in other ways.”

“We are,” he said, “still in conversations with some donors at this point in time.”

Ross said construction on the project, which will include a 5,000-square-foot addition dubbed ArtsLab and repurposing another 3,000 square feet of space in the Auer Center, will start in the next couple of weeks and is expected to be completed by December.

ArtsLab, which is also described as a “black box,” will be on the east side of the Auer Center and rented for a variety of activities, including music and theatrical productions, exhibits and expositions. It will have a grid that includes sound and theatrical lighting, as well as flexible seating that can accommodate about 200 people.

The facility, Ross said, fits into the concept of linking nearby attractions into a sort of downtown Fort Wayne arts campus that now includes the Auer Center, the Fort Wayne Museum of Art, the History Center, the Cinema Center, Arts United Center and Freimann Square.

Among the arts organizations in the Auer Center are Artlink, the Fort Wayne Ballet and FAME.

“The idea behind (ArtsLab) is we really don’t have a space like this in Fort Wayne,” Ross said. “The way this space will be utilized, we think, it’s going to encourage new and different types of creative activities.”

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