The stone building at 122 S. Walnut St. was once Bloomington City Hall. Until 1985, it housed the police department. And 10 years ago it was redeveloped to fulfill a new purpose: bringing the arts to Bloomington.\nThrough all the residents, the building's face has changed little.\nIt is unlike any other place in Bloomington. The two theaters and three galleries in the John Waldron Arts Center give local artists and performers a place to show their work.\n"I think it provides opportunities to local artists…for such a small town, they're great venues," said Allison Batty, performing arts director for the Bloomington Area Arts Council. \nThe BAAC, whose offices are on the second floor of the center, was the leading force behind converting the building and has run the center since it opened. Executive Director Sally Gaskill said the center also gives the community access to the arts -- from viewing exhibits to seeing shows to taking art classes. \nThe arts council also took over the Indiana Theater, 114 E. Kirkwood Ave., (now known as the Buskirk-Chumley) for renovation. But the arts council had to turn the theater over to the city of Bloomington due to financial difficulties.\n"We raised $2 million (for the renovation), but we spent three," Gaskill said. \nThe John Waldron Arts Center is home to two theaters -- the Rose Firebay, a small theater on the first floor, and the Auditorium, where stained-glass doors open up to a larger black box theater on the top floor. Also on the third floor, across from the Auditorium, is the long and narrow Flashlight Gallery. \nThe center features two more art galleries -- the Rosemary P. Miller Gallery, with second story windows that overlook Walnut Avenue and the Small Gallery, which branches off the Miller Gallery. Classrooms line the first and second floors. \nThe John Waldron Arts Center was designed as a multi-purpose arts complex. Ideas for such a center were introduced in the early 1980s, but nothing came together at the time. A plan was created in 1987 to build the Monroe County Arts Complex. But after leasing troubles delayed construction plans, the building was eventually used to create a two-story antique mall instead. \nIn 1989, the Bloomington City Council presented an offer to the arts council: If the BAAC could raise $750,000 for the center by the end of the year, the city council would either give them or lease them the former city hall to create a community arts center. The resolution quickly passed through the council. \nThe arts council had some difficulty raising the money, until an anonymous donor gave $375,000 to the fund-raising efforts. The donor, Cecile Waldron -- one of the five members on the fund-raising committee for the center -- was eventually revealed, and the center was named in honor of her family. Renovation was completed in 1992.\nSince then, the John Waldron Arts Center has offered programs for adults and after-school programs for children. Classes in painting, drawing and sculpture take place almost every day in the center. Most recently, it has purchased radio equipment for a youth-run radio show and installed a new photo lab. \nThe center is now featuring three exhibits in the galleries. In the Rosemary P. Miller gallery, "Energy of African Masks" is on display. Three artists contributed to this exhibit, including Lea Atiq, whose masks surround the room, Tnejin Ikeda, whose prints are featured in one corner of the gallery and Vassa, whose metal sculptures stand freely in the middle of the room.\nIn the Small Gallery, "Expansion of Light" a series of paintings by L. Morris Coe are displayed. Upstairs in the Flashlight Gallery, Ruth Kelly's black and white photography exhibit, "Buildings, Street, People" line the walls. \nThe most recent addition to the galleries is the hiring of a new Gallery Director, Mary Hambly, who filled a position that had been vacant for almost a year. Hambly, who received her M.F.A. from IU, spent two and a half years working at a gallery in New Harmony, Ind. before returning to Bloomington. \n"I've only been here for less than a week, but things seem to be going alright so far," Hambly said of her new position. \nOne of the next events to grace the John Waldron Arts Center is "Neenog and the Fish for a Long Time," a play written by senior Catherine Smith. Smith will finish her individualized degree in musical theater performance, directing and scriptwriting this year. The play is about a man who falls into a coma and travels through the afterlife and discovers his true passion for his wife, with whom he had a troubled marriage. \nSmith said choosing the John Waldron Arts Center as the site for her play was not a difficult decision.\n"I pictured the space when I wrote it," she said.
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