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The Lux Center for the Arts has reopened its doors to visitors after completing a major renovation project aimed at bringing its century-old home into the modern era.

The one-time University Place City Hall, completed in 1914, was annexed by the City of Lincoln in 1924.

Renovations, including vaulted ceilings and coated windows to protect the works of art, have modernized the building, but many charming older features remain, such as a 100-year-old floor built using sand likely sourced from local rivers and streams, an original vault door and bars from an old jail cell in one of the offices.

Executive Director Susan Kriz said the goal of the renovation project was to keep the walls and original fixtures as unchanged as possible, and to keep with the spirit of the gallery's namesake, Gladys Lux.

"This building is 105 years old, and its been well-used," Kriz said. "We needed new HVAC systems, upgraded electrical, renovated bathrooms, really all of the basic building systems had to be paid attention to."

Associate Director Joe Shaw said the team in some ways worked in reverse to restore some of the building's original hallmarks.

"We really stripped the building to its essence, getting rid of the things that were added later," Shaw said. "We tried to get to the basic good bones of this building."

The end result is a building uniquely blending two eras, with modern high ceilings, gallery lighting and a paved parking lot contrasting with the rustic red brick, 100-year-old wood floors and unique features such as the panels in the floor that once held firemen's poles.

The main gallery, 2601 N. 48th St., was the former home of University Place's firetrucks, with the large garage bays, although bricked over, still visible from the outside.

Kriz said the renovations were completed in two phases, though the plan had been in place for some time.

"Phase 1 was the ceramic center, renovating that building to make it a dedicated center, and paving the parking lot," Kriz said. "It sounds crazy, but I was never so happy to have paving."

Work on the first phase, which began in January 2017, also included re-roofing adjacent buildings used for art classes.

The second phase began in April, with a ribbon-cutting ceremony and a goal for the project to be completed by Nov. 14.

"It has been quite an effort on everyone's part," Kriz said.

Fundraising for the project began as early as 2014.

"It had waned a bit, and starting again in 2016 we had a renewed push for it," Kriz said. "We took a look at the plan with fresh eyes and simplified some things."

Funding came from 63 organizations and individuals listed on a new donor wall. The center will continue to accept donations to its building maintenance fund.

Kriz said the entire project, including purchasing the nearby building, totaled more than $1.7 million.

The end result is not only a beautiful space, but renovations allowed the center to double its classroom space.

"We can now accommodate more students, and we already have had a 20 percent increase in enrollment in the last year," Shaw said.

Shaw said he expects that number to increase as Lincoln residents come and see the renovations.

"Lux is Lincoln's community art center," Shaw said. "You can come here and take a class, you can see an exhibition free of charge, or our historical print exhibition.

"This is a one-stop shop for art in Lincoln, and there's no other art center like it."

Reach the writer at 402-473-7223 or ckeene@journalstar.com.

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Newsroom intern

2018 fall semester intern at the Journal Star.

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