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Friends University to renovate two Delano buildings for art department

Friends University today announced a $3.5 million plan to renovate two buildings in Delano and move its art department there.

The 1911 Farmers State Bank Building and Odd Fellows Hall at 930 W. Douglas and the concrete warehouse behind it at 122 N. Walnut are about a mile from the college campus.

The college unveiled its plans at news conference and building tour in the main room of the old brick bank building.

The university expects to have the buildings ready by the start of the 2013-14 school year.

The move will give Friends art students more space and put the program in the heart of the Delano neighborhood, said Friends President T.J. Arant.

“We know that we will able to turn this beautiful building into a destination, both for our students and for the community,” Arant told the assembled officials and neighborhood residents.

The first floor will become a gallery, offices and a lecture hall. The open, sunny Odd Fellows meeting hall upstairs will become art studios.

The warehouse next door will become studios for sculpture and ceramic programs, and it also will provide storage space.

The art program has been cramped at Friends, Arant said. The university has been looking for a way to give it more space for five years.

Moving to the new space will be the painting, sculpture, graphic arts, photography and ceramics programs. There are 13 faculty, 74 current and 13 incoming art majors, and 150 non-major students taking art classes.

Art professor Ted Krone said that having different disciplines in the same spaces has become a chore because of the cleanup required.

“This solves all of that,” Krone said.

Arant also said that the move connects the college and its students to the reviving Delano commercial district. The art department will become part of community events, such as the Final Friday gallery crawl.

“We think of ourselves as part of Delano,” he said. “It is our neighborhood, and we are really delighted to have a street-front business in the district. That makes us very happy at the university.”

Dan Unruh of InSite Real Estate Group, who represented the college in its search for space, said Friends’ move illustrates the gathering momentum of redevelopment in Delano. His company redeveloped space just down the street in 2010.

“The public sector invested quite a bit in infrastructure here, and the private sector has shown that it has really seen the vision,” he said.

Howard and Helmer Architecture is the architect on the project. Ted Branson of Landmark Commercial Real Estate and Don Ablah of Classic Real Estate also helped on the deal.

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