New arts center to be built

After a ground-breaking ceremony in May, construction is now underway for the Sue Ross Arts Center and is expected to take approximately seven months.

This new arts center will be located at the corner of Jefferson Street and Franklin Street, a block south of the old arts center that burned down Dec. 2, 2016. Assistant City Manager Ashley Young said that spot was likely chosen because it leads into Truman State University, A.T. Still University and The Square and is, therefore, one of the busiest intersections in town. 

Young said that while the city is excited about this project, its only role is inspection of the construction. 

“Our codes and planning department, they work with the construction crew and the engineering firm to inspect the project and be sure that it’s meeting all of the city of Kirksville’s codes,” Young said. 

The city previously owned the plot of land where the new arts center will be, but traded it for the plot where the old art center was. Young said there are multiple ideas about what to do with the old plot, but did not elaborate on the ideas.

Linda Treasure, Kirksville Arts Association president, said the contractors are Sparks Constructors Incorporated, a local company. She said the main gallery will be approximately 1,800 square feet and the new building will also have a full-service kitchen, an office, a meeting and workshop room, and a loft with an upper gallery and conference room. 

“We had a mosaic mural on our old building that the community had done and we were able to salvage those tiles, so we’ll be putting more tiles on it and they’ll go [on the outside],” Treasure said.

Treasure said there will be a sprinkler system in the new building. Another thing Treasure thinks might help prevent another fire is that the entire building will be new. The old building was built in 1907 and she said the top two floors still had some of the original wiring. 

The designers of the building are STRATA Architecture and Preservation out of Kansas City and Treasure said they are working together with the contractors to keep the Arts Association on budget. The idea for the building, she said, was to have a contemporary style. 

“I hope that we can contribute to the vibrancy of the downtown area,” Treasure said. “We have special events, we have workshops from time to time, we have exhibits and we want the people to come out and see what we have to offer.”

Treasure said there are already some exhibits planned and she hopes the Arts Association will be moved into the new building and have their first exhibit up in early March. 

The last exhibit in the old building — the exhibit that burned — was the “Hands of Friendship Quilt Guild.”

“Even though the fire didn’t get down to the gallery, with the heat the fibers melted and the smoke and water, it destroyed most of the quilts,” Treasure explained. “They were all damaged, some beyond recognition.”

That quilt exhibit had just been put up the day before the fire and that is why, Treasure said, the first exhibit in the new building will be quilts.