If you've heard anything about the Lux Center for the Arts' recent renovations, the term "doubling" is bound to have come up. As in: doubling space, doubling capacity and generally doubling most everything the arts center in University Place does.
Thanks to completing the first phase of Lux's renovation plan, the center's capacity for arts education has greatly expanded. To borrow from the movie "Field of Dreams": Lux built it, and now the people are coming.
More than a century ago, Lux's building – located at 48th and Baldwin streets near the University of Nebraska-Lincoln's East Campus – was the city hall of the town of University Place. There, the town's mayor worked in his office, and its city council convened in its chambers.
Lincoln annexed University Place in 1926, and at times the building was a fire station and then a restaurant before, in 1984, it was purchased by Nebraska Wesleyan Professor Gladys Lux, who eventually donated it as an arts center. Since then, it's been the home of the University Place Art Center, eventually renamed the Lux Center for the Arts, holding its gallery and instructional space.
Lux Executive Director Susan McIntosh Kriz said the first phase involved purchasing two adjacent buildings. Remodeling finished in June, she said, and now Lux boasts a new ceramics center with two dedicated classrooms – one with 12 potters’ wheels for wheel-throwing ceramics, and the other classroom for hand-building. The newly renovated buildings also have four kilns, a plaster room for molds, four artists-in-residence studios and a clay mixing room, which contains all the different elements a ceramicist needs.
Expanded educational opportunities
"What we've done is effectively double our classroom space," Kriz said. "It's allowed us to have more offerings and to serve more students at one time. We've already seen an increase." Kriz said the Lux doubled the number of adults taking classes since the space opened and has seen a 50 percent increase in youth students since 2016.
Lindsey Clausen, Lux's education director, noted that thanks to the "fabulous new facilities," Lux has been able to expand its educational opportunities to new and different types of students.
"We have students from all walks of life and all artistic abilities, as well as professional artists," Clausen said.
Now, because of these changes, Kriz said, Lux can fulfill its mission better than ever. Its mission includes, she said, "Giving people the opportunity to experience art in all its forms." The idea is that, at Lux, an interested person could even go all the way from novice to professional.
"A person can come here at every stage," Kriz said. "A person can learn to make art, a person can see art, and also work with emerging artists in the process."
At Lux, the artists-in-residence do more than just hone their craft: they are expected to help others, too.
"All the classes are being taught by serious emerging artists who are highly educated in their areas," Kriz said.
As a particularly appropriate demonstration of this expanded effort, the newly renovated building's entryway is a new student gallery, which has proven to be especially popular.
"We have found there to be a lot of enthusiasm surrounding that," Kriz said.
Phase one of the renovations was funded primarily from private donations from individuals, corporations and private foundations. Fundraising began about four years ago.
Over halfway through $1 million fundraising goal for phase 2
Although a lot of work has been done, "It's been a long time in the planning process," Kriz emphasized. More is planned. Lux is now more than halfway through its fundraising goal of $1 million for the second phase of its renovation. The goal is to renovate the original building – the old city hall – to upgrade the electrical wiring, restrooms and kitchen; to refinish the old floors; and to put in a new HVAC system.
"A lot of what we need to do surrounds taking care of the building so we can continue to serve," Kriz said. "It's served us well for a long time, and it has a long life ahead of it."
As Lux continues to educate Lincolnites, both Clausen and Kriz seem focused on making sure the revised physical space stays true to its vision. It's right there in Lux's motto, if you Google it: "Real art – for everyone."
"It’s about making something accessible to the community that wasn’t there before," Clausen said.
With new facilities, it's become more accessible than ever.