In a bit of whimsy, they've nicknamed it AHHA!, as in an "Aha!" moment. It stands for the Tulsa Arts & Humanities Council Hardesty Arts Center. After eight years of planning, hoping and fundraising, this new three-level super-center for the arts is now under construction with a projected completion date of winter 2012.
Don't believe us? Check out the live webcam, which shows real-time construction on the new AHHA! building at ahct.org.
"We're going to have a full-scale arts district," said Lydia Moore, AHCT's public relations and events associate.
The hope is that the $18.3 million project on the corner of Archer and Boston will build momentum for an already-happening Brady Arts District.
The center hopes to draw in painters, filmmakers and other artists from all over with a bolstered artist residency and new artist studios. The council is "going to focus more on artist residencies," said Moore. "Who will work with the community, and stay for an extended periods of time."
In exchange for studio space, artists will help out with community-based programs at the center, Moore explained.
Since the 1980s, local artists have bandied about the idea for a visual arts center. In 2006, Tulsans voted to support the center with a third penny sales tax extension.
In May, a groundbreaking ceremony for the new center was held, which also served to celebrate AHCT's 50th birthday.
The center will hold "a huge exhibition space, classrooms, artist studios, a venue rental," and Moore paused, "And, an amazing rooftop."
In May, drilling also began on new underground geothermal wells that will help cool and heat the AHHA. A green space, named Park on Brady, will be cultivated over the wells.
Local artist, filmmaker and photographer Geoffrey Hicks is working on a ballet film at the center's construction site.
Hicks said he'll film dancers performing at the site throughout its construction. He's named the project Transformation, and said, "This high concept art film will uniquely document and promote the Hardesty Arts Center not only as an incubator of art in our community, but also as a work of art itself."
So far, the council has raised about $13 million for the building, which received a name change (from Visual Arts Center) after a $2.65 million donation from the Hardesty Family Foundation.
Other donors include the George Kaiser Family Foundation, Bank of Oklahoma, Ann Graves and the City of Tulsa, among others.
For budding philanthropists, a donation of $50 will earn you "membership into the avant-garde," said Moore. With a donation, "You can become a founding member of Hardesty Arts Center, and your name will permanently appear" inscribed in one of the classrooms, Moore said.
Donations will help fund construction costs, equipment and staff. AHCT is currently re-vamping their offerings to the public. "We're kind of in a process of developing and evolving our existing programs," Moore said.
"On any given day in Tulsa County, [AHCT] has several artists working in the schools, which supplements the students' educational exposure," Moore said.
"Especially during cutbacks when arts are the first thing to go. And we're also employing artists...There are a lot of older artists who will attribute their first paychecks to" AHCT, Moore said.
In addition to exposing Tulsa kids to the arts, AHCT also employs artists like Margie Aycock to "provide patients in hospitals with various arts activities and workshops," Moore said. Aycock teaches women who are hospitalized with high-risk pregnancies about knitting, sewing and embroidery.
When the center opens next winter, the council's site said it hopes to be "an arts hub for every person in Tulsa; a central place where creativity and dreams thrive."
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