Editorial: Art for Art’s Sake New facility could be another arts-city icon

Editorial: Art for Art’s Sake New facility could be another arts-city icon

Journal editorial board | Posted: Wednesday, November 4, 2015 8:30 pm artpark


ARTivity on the Green in downtown Winston-Salem.

After the success of the arts park that opened earlier this year, ARTivity on the Green, we have every confidence that the next project slated for the area will be just as successful.

The nonprofit arts organization Art for Art’s Sake plans to plant a three-story, 14,000-square-foot headquarters next to the arts park, the Journal’s Wesley Young reported last week. Harry Knabb, the chairman and chief executive of the arts organization, says the building should be “a modern icon for Winston-Salem.”

“We have been studying arts-based buildings around the world,” Knabb told the Journal. “The park is going to be the front yard of the building. It will all tie together. It will have a lot of glass, balconies, maybe a cantilevered extension. It will not be a square box.”

The building’s three floors will contain gallery space, affordable studio space for artists, a board room and about 2,000 square feet that will be available for lease to an arts company, the Journal reported. It will allow the arts organization to consolidate some of its current galleries and programs, which are spread throughout town.

The rooftop will also be used, Knabb said, for outdoor receptions and “the best view of Winston-Salem.”

Everything about the headquarters sounds pleasing to us, including the economics involved. The building is made possible by a gift of close to $5 million from the Thomas J. Regan Jr. Foundation. No government loans or grants are involved. And local companies have been hired to complete the work: Stitch Design Shop will design the building and Frank L. Blum Construction Co. will build it.

“It will be paid for, so that we can look 20, 30, 40 years in advance and not have to worry about anything,” Knabb told the Journal.

The headquarters should generate income for Arts for Art’s Sake and help it maintain a significant presence in the arts district. Gayle Anderson, president of the Winston-Salem Chamber of Commerce, also likes the plan: “What they did with the ARTivity Park changed the whole character of Liberty Street,” Anderson told the Journal. “This is really going to add to it. As Trade Street has filled up real estate demand goes up and prices go up. We want to make sure there is a place in the arts district for artists.”

Sometimes in larger cities, the urban pioneers in an arts community move into an abandoned or under-ulitized area, create value, then, after making the area unique and lively, lose it to moneyed interests and gentrification. We shouldn’t let that happen here.

Knabb seems aware of this trend and is prepared to fight it. As he told the Journal, “We don’t want a plaque on Sixth and Trade that says ‘This used to be the arts district.’”

Can The City of Arts and Innovation sustain another arts icon? How can it not?