The Buchanan Center for the Arts is in a building that dates back to 1870. The first floor was a commercial space when the building debuted; the second floor was the first "people’s library" in the state of Illinois.
Now work is underway to make the building look at least partially like it did in those bygone years.
“What we’re wanting to do is get as close to that original look as possible and give it a little modern twist. We also want to stand out a little bit in the downtown because we are the arts center -- but we also want to complement our neighbors as well,” said Kristyne Gilbert, BCA Executive Director.
“The windows on the first floor are a little different than the original. But the second story windows are reminiscent of the era when the building was first built. And we are trying to uncover as much of the brick as possible.”
Gilbert hoped the work, which is Phase 2 of a renovation project, will be finished by the end of the month. Phase 2 also includes some foundation work on the east side of the building and it addresses some ADA issues. This phase will cost an estimated $150,000.
Gilbert said Phase 1 of the renovation project dealt with structural/foundation repairs, tuck pointing, the roof, and the HVAC system. That work cost around $160,000 and is now completed.
Money for the renovations has come from a private foundation, donations from BCA members, and a city of Monmouth façade grant.
Tentative plans call for Phases 3 and 4 to focus on interior renovations. Those phases are still in the planning stages and no timetable is set for completing them.
“It’s (the building) been what I like to think of as really well loved on because it is used and the arts are very active in Warren County,” Gilbert said.
“Tens of thousands of people have come through each year. So we need to give it a little bit of a facelift, make it maybe a little more modern, and address some of those issues of aging.”
The next exhibit at the Buchanan Center will be the annual national juried 64 Arts show. It will run from August 29 to October 7. An opening reception will be held from 5:00 p.m. – 7:00 p.m. on Friday, September 8.
Gilbert said more than 400 entries were submitted from across the country. Only 49 were chosen. This year’s juror is Lucas Cowan, the Public Art Curator for the Rose Kennedy Greenway Conservancy in Boston.