Mesa officials are looking forward to more space for city arts classes when the vaunted $94.5 million downtown arts center opens in spring 2005.
The 206,500-square-foot arts center, being built on 7 acres on the southeast corner of Center and Main streets, will feature 14 visual and performing arts studios for pottery, dance, acting, painting, music and photography classes.
The new studios will offer 50 percent more space than what’s available now for arts programs, said Rob Schultz, Mesa’s arts administrator.
Currently, the city holds arts classes in a building at 155 N. Center St., built in 1936 as the Irving Elementary School. It was converted into a city parks and recreation building in the 1970s.
Last year, about 32,000 people attended classes in about a dozen rooms at the former school. Schultz said many classes are at capacity.
"In a nutshell, our rooms are pretty well utilized on most days," Schultz said.
Schultz said the arts center studios will give patrons some much-needed breathing room.
The studios were designed in part by users and instructors, said Joanie Flatt, president of the Mesa Arts and Entertainment Alliance.
"There were days and days of workshops designing those studios so they could handle the largest number of people in best way," Flatt said.
Mesa officials are exploring the possibility of renting out the studios on a limited basis.
The arts center also will feature four theaters and an art gallery. Officials are beginning to book shows for the 2005-06 season. While not divulging what shows are coming, they confirm events will include everything from country to classical concerts; ballet; Shakespearean drama; Neil Simon comedies; older musicals; and a lot of local talent.
"We’re looking at bits of everything," said Randy Vogel, the arts center’s director.
City officials estimate the facility will draw 700,000 to 1 million people a year.