Monday, March 30, 2009

Vote 'yes' on the Garver Arts Incubator

Election day draws near (it's April 7, in case you forgot), and in amongst the many candidate and referendum choices available to Madison residents will be a question on whether or not the city should sell the old Garver Feed Mill to Common Wealth Development. And I highly encourage you to vote 'yes' for that move.

Why? Because CWD, a non-profit organization that has done a lot of good for our community over the years, wants to transform the beautiful old--currently vacant--building into an arts incubator. They're proposing a LEED-certified renovation of the space so that it will provide much-needed, affordable studio and learning space for area artists. According to a CWD press release:
The Garver Arts Incubator will include 40 art studios. Visitors can enroll in art classes, attend performances or view a gallery while interacting with artists. A three-story atrium, indoor/outdoor café, gift shop and rooftop garden are also included in the plan. In addition, the renovation will be a sustainable development project and the building will be LEED certified.
They go on to emphasize that the center will not be paid for with city taxpayer money. Instead, "If the referendum passes, the City of Madison will sell the Garver building to Common Wealth who would retain ownership of the land through a minimum 30-year lease." Money for the project would be gotten through private funds, tax credits, and some federal assistance.

Certainly there's added appeal for me in a project like this. I'm heavily involved in the arts community, and many of my friends are artists who would likely benefit from its creation. In fact, the idea reminds me very much of the Mellwood Arts & Entertainment Center in Louisville, Kentucky. A few of my Wis-Kino comrades and I went down to Louisville to participate in their 48-hour filmmaking festival, and the final screening was held in a very nice room in the center.

It's an old, converted meat packing warehouse that now houses artist studios, a cafe, fitness center, some retail space, galleries, and teaching spaces. I remember being very impressed with the look and feel of the building, and that the city had such a great resource for its artists. The Garver Arts Incubator could be just such a space for Madison.

The main reason it's had to come up for referendum is that, "Under the city's shoreline preservation ordinance, voters must endorse the project located near Starkweather Creek before construction can begin." I'm hopeful that, based on CDW's track record of working closely with the community and paying close attention to environmental concerns, shoreline preservation will be a top priority in construction plans. They've already made plans to have "on-site storm water management and a comprehensive transportation plan that minimizes parking," which is a good start.

I encourage you to read more about it over at the CWD website. They have detailed plans and proposals available. And if it means anything to you, The Capital Times has endorsed the idea, and my own alder, Marsha Rummel, has been championing the project as well.

Vote Yes for the Garver Arts Incubator.


Anonymous said...

Great post Emily! Thanks for shining a light on the possibility for Madison and the arts community! This is one of the most exciting opportunities Madison residents have had to continue to attract and keep the best of the best!

jen x said...

It's often so hard to find good info on the various balliot items -- thanks for the terrific post and links!

Anonymous said...

Nice job, Emily. One other point folks should keep in mind is that if the referendum fails, we're back to Square One. The question then becomes "Where can we find eight hundred thousand dollars in city funding to tear the building down?" Please, please, vote YES for Garver, Vote YES for art!

Josh said...

Oh man, that would be grand. I was just looking at a posting about this at the laundry last night and was thinking the same thing: "This could be *our* Mellwood Arts & Entertainment Center"

The Lost Albatross