Not quite in the bank

Published 7:06 am Sunday, December 29, 2013

Jerry Girton, left, and Terry Dilley tour the upstairs of the bank building during an open house in September showcasing the potential for a proposed art center. Herald file photo

Jerry Girton, left, and Terry Dilley tour the upstairs of the bank building during an open house in September showcasing the potential for a proposed art center. Herald file photo

To Jennie Knoebel, the future is bright for the arts in Austin, even if it’s a bit fuzzy.

As 2013 draws to a close, the Austin Area Commission for the Arts is still working on moving ahead with plans for a downtown arts center to be called the Austin ArtWorks Center. Though events were held a few months ago promoting the center at the bank building downtown, the Commission for the Arts is still working on a lease agreement with the building’s owner, Patrick Bradley.

“The art center is going to happen,” said Knoebel, the executive director of the Paramount Theatre and the Austin Area Commission for the Arts. “The location is still yet to be determined. The bank building is our first priority, and we’re going to work hard to make it work, but we’ve discussed alternate options.”

Email newsletter signup

The end goal remains the same: to hold a grand opening for the downtown arts center merged with the Austin Area Art Center during the third ArtWorks Festival Aug. 23 and 24, 2014. The Commission for the Arts plans to launch a capital campaign for the ArtWorks Center in January or February with construction to renovate the location soon after.

Though the plans have been pushed back a bit, Knoebel said, they still have room for flexibility.

“We are in very good shape to make that happen,” Knoebel said.

Regardless of the location, the ArtWorks Center will include classroom space, studio space, gallery space and a wine bar. Knoebel said they’ve received estimates from contractors about work to develop the space, and commission officials have a business plan for the center.

The Austin Area Art Center will merge with the Austin Commission for the Arts sometime soon. Knoebel said the Austin Area Art Center could dissolve as soon as the end of this month or after the final announcement for the ArtWorks Center location.

Whether that official merger happens now or in a few months, the art center will continue to have programming and shows at the current location at Oak Park Mall through August.

The Austin Area Commission for the Arts will be the umbrella organization over the Paramount Theatre, the Austin ArtWorks Festival and the Austin ArtWorks Center.

The plan will be to tie in artists who display their work at the center in with the ArtWorks Festival.

Along with the grand opening, Knoebel said, the ArtWorks Festival will be even bigger in 2014. The plan is to add more events based on participation from the public, like demonstrations and opportunities to interact with artists and artwork.

“A lot of people really enjoy those activities and to be able to get involved with creating artwork, so we’re exploring some more idea so we can help make that happen,” Knoebel said.

The long-discussed expansion of the Paramount Theatre is still coming, but Knoebel said it’s on the back burner right now.

“Our focus needs to be on expanding the visual arts first, and then we’re going take the time and start focusing on the performing arts,” Knoebel said.

The Paramount will look to partner with local groups like the Matchbox Children’s Theater, the Austin Symphony Orchestra and the Northwestern Singers to ensure the expansion amenities meet their needs.

“The Paramount was built as a movie theater. It doesn’t have the dressing rooms and bathrooms and things that the larger performance groups that use the Paramount need, so it only makes sense to expand it in a way that’s going to work for everyone’s purpose,” Knoebel said.

The project could include things like larger dressing rooms, rehearsal space and larger bathrooms.

The Paramount expansion will come to the forefront after the ArtWorks Center is up and running, so Knoebel expects more on that in 2015.

“That’s the next in line for how to improve and grow and expand the arts and culture in Austin,” she said.

Knoebel said the Austin ArtWorks Festival has created a wave of enthusiasm for the arts, and she hopes that momentum continues to grow.
“It is a very exciting time to be working on the arts in Austin,” Knoebel said. “I think since the ArtWorks Festival there’s been this renewed interest in the arts in Austin.”