by Savanah Mandeville, JRBJ Reporter
Professionals and patrons could soon be breathing new life into a landmark building in Joplin.
Connect2Culture, in partnership with other arts groups, has secured the necessary funding for initial architectural plans to transform Memorial Hall, 212 W. Eighth St., into a community cultural arts center.
The groups were able to raise $65,000 within just 35 days of gaining approval from Joplin City Council. The Community Foundation of Southwest Missouri presented Connect2Culture with the lead donation, a check for $48,000, during a press conference on Jan. 6 at Memorial Hall.
The money will be used to secure the services of architects Corner Greer and Associates of Joplin and Westlake Reed Leskosky of New York City to carry out a feasibility study and develop two design plans. The first plan will retain the existing facility with necessary additions, and the second involves razing the building and starting from the ground up.
“We’re very excited to grant $48,000 for a feasibility study to see exactly what Memorial Hall can become,” said Stephanie Howard, president of CFSWMO. “Memorial Hall is definitely an integral part of the city, and it was an integral part of the tornado efforts.”
The donation was made from Joplin’s Tornado Recovery Fund.
“To have raised the necessary funds in a month’s time, from multiple sources, to formally engage the architects, speaks to the positive momentum for the cultural efforts in our community,” said Clifford Wert, co-vice president and treasurer for Connect2Culture in a news release. “We are extremely grateful to the Community Foundation of Southwest Missouri for its full support of our grant application.”
Connect2Culture is working in partnership with the George A. Spiva Center for the Arts, Pro Musica and the Downtown Joplin Alliance.
A top priority in the development, Wert said, is preserving all veteran’s memorials located in the building and providing a meeting room for the Joplin veteran’s group.
Design plans include a 500-seat proscenium performance hall, community spaces, meeting rooms, art offices and an overhaul of the parking lot. It would also serve as the new home for the George A. Spiva Center of the Arts, which has outgrown its Third and Wall Street location.
“Cultural arts in all of its forms and presentations is one of the vital threads for a community’s growth, economic development and quality of life,” Wert said. “We look forward to what is in store for Joplin in 2015.”View Press Release