An ambitious endeavor to create an arts destination inside a historic downtown Jackson building has begun. The Jackson School of the Arts capital campaign, an effort to raise $2 million for the school’s move from 634 N. Mechanic St. to the now city-owned Masonic Temple, 145-157 Cortland St., kicks off Wednesday, Nov. 29.
“We are creating an arts center in downtown Jackson for everyone – millennials to senior citizens and toddlers to teenagers,” Amy Fracker, JSA assistant director, said. “It’s an exciting time for downtown with all the revitalization going on, and we want to be a part of that and all downtown Jackson has to offer.”
In September, JSA signed a letter of agreement with the city to lease parts of the former temple’s basement, first floor and second floor. JSA hopes to finalize the lease by early 2018 and move into the space next fall, Fracker said.
“We ran out of space,” Fracker said. “We won’t lose the warm, welcoming feeling we have. We’re just expanding on that, along with the arts opportunities and educational experiences we offer.”
Starting with 40 students in 2001, the school now serves 800 to 1,000 children every year. It has 93 classes a week in art, dance and theatre, as well as student plays, summer programs, the popular Fairy Festival and more.
How much people pay for classes is based on their income. That won’t change in the new space, Fracker said.
The expansion includes space for two galleries – one with a children’s focus and one for local artists and traveling exhibits from places like the Smithsonian Institution.
A hands-on area for kids’ STEAM – science, technology, engineering, arts, math – activities is planned, as is a kiln for pottery.
“Every single inch of will contain an element of imagination and creativity,” she said.
There will be retail space for artists and vendors, a catering kitchen and rental space for corporate events and public and private receptions, including weddings.
The new space also is handicap accessible, which allows for programs for students at the Jackson County Intermediate School District’s Lyle Torrant and Kit Young centers, Fracker said.
Funding for the new space is coming solely from private and corporate donations, Fracker said. About $400,000 already has been raised, she said.
The temple, built in 1907, has carved mahogany woodwork, ornate ceilings, an amphitheater and more. It was one of the grandest, and eventually the last, fraternal lodge on Lodge Row on Cortland Street, which also housed the Moose and Knights of Columbus lodges.