Cleburne Friends of the Cultural Arts members attended Tuesday’s Cleburne City Council meeting, along with representatives from the Greater Cleburne Carnegie Players and other local arts groups, to request use of a bank building purchased by the city several years ago.
The group hopes to turn the vacant bank building into a cultural arts complex.
“A cultural arts complex will draw tourists and increase revenue for the city of Cleburne,” CFCA President Alden Nellis said. “It will provide a much needed central location for all the arts groups and serve as a center where tourists can sample what else to see and do in Cleburne.”
The building would bring groups such as the Cleburne Camera Club, Johnson County Art Guild and others under one roof and provide a place for information on other Cleburne attractions such as the Layland Museum and the Chisholm Trail Outdoor Museum.
“I see it as a center of rotating exhibits and activities,” Nellis said. “A place that would help attract noted artists, photographers and performers to Cleburne.”
The center would also provide a permanent and highly visible home to the Carnegie Players, who now stage out of the Cleburne Performing Arts Center and previously used the upstairs theater in the Layland Museum.
Carnegie President Barry Swindall said the group has provided Cleburne with quality community theater for 36 years, but now faces budget and visibility challenges.
“The fact that we’ve never been able to have a permanent sign like the Plaza Theatre [Co.],” Swindall said. “I think this move would give us an identity in one location right on the main drag. I think, since Plaza is just down the street, it would give Cleburne a theater district feel. I also think this has great potential not just for Carnegie, but for all the arts groups in Cleburne. People come in from outside the city to see a play and they also see all the other things Cleburne has to offer.”
Charlotte Lawson of the Johnson County Art Guild agreed.
“I think this idea brings a strength that benefits not only our organizations, but also Cleburne as well,” Lawson said. “Through more visitors to town and increased membership and participation on our many groups. I look at this as a powerful and positive opportunity that must be seized.”
Nellis requested a long-term lease on the building and said he and the other participating organizations hope to raise about $100,000 to remodel the bank building with hopes to eventually build a 1,200-seat auditorium behind the bank where the old drive-thru lanes now sit.
“I see this as the nucleus and enabler of a growing arts community that should fit right in with the city’s downtown master plan,” Nellis said.
The center would also serve as a space for workshops, projects and educational program benefitting residents and tourists alike, Nellis said.
A downtown study is presently under way to determine options for revitalizing the downtown area. Several additional projects and studies are also in the works addressing how best to plan for Cleburne’s future over the next 10 to 20 years. City officials predict significant population and business growth in the coming years once construction of Texas 121, a toll road linking Fort Worth to Cleburne, completes.
Nellis requested the council to place the proposal on their meeting agenda for a vote in the near future.
Council members listened to the groups’ presentation, but made few comments.
“I will say I don’t know of any other city in Texas our size with more cultural opportunities than Cleburne,” Mayor Scott Cain said. “That can certainly help shape a person’s life and I thank all the members of all our arts groups for all you do.”
Cain reiterated his appreciation for the various arts groups in Cleburne and their volunteers on Wednesday, and for their presentation and proposal.
“Again, we have a tremendous amount of culture for a town our size, and a big component of our downtown planning is going to involve expansion of our cultural arts,” Cain said. “But right now we’re looking not just at one building or project, but at where we’re going as a city in the next 10 to 15 years. A big part of that will include how our existing buildings fit in with those long-term plans for Cleburne.
“But I really appreciated all the work they’ve put into this and their presentation last night, and I was glad to see such a large turnout of our arts groups. I think it’s important for all our citizens to envision the possibilities for Cleburne and to dream big. I encourage that and we need more of that in our community.”