Pullen Arts Center is going into hibernation, and it will emerge considerably larger.
The 56-year-old facility just east of the NC State Bell Tower will close Thursday, Nov. 9, to begin a $6 million expansion project. When it reopens, the building will have a new three-story addition on its south side.
That will add about 7,500 square feet to the current facility’s 14,000 square feet. It likely will reopen some time in 2019.
“We don’t know how long it will take, a minimum of 12 months,” said director Eliza Kiser. “We’ve got almost 60 years worth of stuff in this building, and it will all have to be moved.”
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As part of the expansion, the existing building’s interior will be gutted and reconfigured. The project will add parking and an outdoor plaza. During the down time, Pullen’s programs will be relocated to other community centers in the area.
Pullen Arts Center opened in January 1961 – the same month John F. Kennedy was inaugurated president. It has studios for pottery, glass-blowing, jewelry, painting, printmaking and book-making, plus multi-purpose rooms for camp programming.
It’s a busy place, open 68 hours a week and most evenings and weekends. About 2,000 people, from ages 4 and older, take classes there every year. Another 400 also use Pullen’s studios to do art projects separate from classes.
“I’m a good steward if things go well with programming and the studios,” said Kiser, who has been Pullen’s director for eight years. “We hope we’ll be able to add additional programs after the expansion.”
While the building’s lower level sustained some water damage from flooding last year, the building has been fairly well-kept over the years. But as Raleigh has grown, Pullen’s capacity has been outstripped.
“It’s not falling down, the staff has done a fantastic job on repairs and things over the years,” said project manager Lora Greco. “But the facility needs to be brought up to current expectations and standards for the programming they’re offering.”
The $6 million for the project came from a parks bond that Raleigh voters passed in 2014. The $91.7 million bond, which passed with 68 percent of the vote, is also funding greenway development, land acquisition and facility upgrades and redevelopment for Raleigh’s parks and greenways.