New classrooms, studios await children, teachers at Arts Center

Preschoolers at the Lawrence Arts Center are circling their wagons.

April 8 and 9, the youngsters will load their paintbrushes and pencils into little red wagons and pull them to the new $7.25 million arts center building in the 900 block of New Hampshire Street, where pristine classroom floors are waiting for their first spattering of paint from little brushes.

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Richard Gwin/Journal World Photo

Linda Reimond, preschool director at the Lawrence Arts Center, helps Johnathan Kinder, 3, center, and Sam Fanshier, 4, with a kite project. Preschoolers on April 8 and 9 will move their belongings in little red wagons to the new Lawrence Arts Center. The wagon train will provide an experience that will allow children, teachers and parents to go into the new building together, Reimond said.

Linda Reimond, director of the arts-based preschool, said the wagon train would allow teachers, children and parents "to go into the new building together."

"Some children don't understand what it means to move," she said, adding that she has been preparing the youngsters by talking about their new classrooms and reading the book "Moving Gives Me a Stomach Ache" during story time.

Leaving the old Carnegie Library building that has served as the preschool's home since its inception in 1985 will be difficult for Reimond.

"This is home and it feels secure," she said, looking around the building's lobby. "There's a lot of good memories, and there's been all these neat children we've had through the years, and for those children this will always be their school."

Still, Reimond is eager to get settled in at the two new classrooms, which are on the main level of the three-story arts center and equipped with sinks and other child-scale items.

"The rooms are bright. We have an outdoor space (for a playground), and we will plant a garden," she said.

At the old arts center, the preschool shared its classroom space, so staff had to move its materials and equipment out of the way at the end of the day so nighttime and weekend classes could use the area.

Scott Garrette, supervisor of the ceramics studio, also is eager to get the kilns and pottery wheels rigged up and running at the new building. The old ceramics studio was in the basement of the Carnegie Library.

The space and equipment at the new site are remarkably different. The new studio, on the building's upper level, will have 13 pottery wheels, up from the seven at the old building; a new electric kiln; a soon-to-be built gas kiln; a glazing room; a sink with a clay trap; and an open-air patio.

"This will open up a lot of doors for new types of firing," Garrette said. "This is equivalent (to the ceramics studio) at KU."

While Reimond expects the number of students and staff at the preschool to remain constant, Garrette believes the ceramics program will grow. Already, an additional instructor and a person to monitor the studio have been hired.

The new, 40,000-square-foot arts center also includes exhibition galleries; a sales gallery; reception and office areas; studios for jewelry, printmaking, painting and dance; dressing rooms; a library/writing room; a performance classroom; an imaging studio and darkroom; and a 300-seat theater.

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