AITKIN -- The Jaques Art Center expects to break ground next year on its expansion project, despite a shortfall in its fund-raising goals so far, a board member said this week.
The center has raised about a third of the $300,000 needed for the project, but additional funding sources have not yet been identified, according to Cherie Holm, the board member in charge of the effort.
Holm said a recent shift away from arts-related projects by public and private grant makers has hampered the board's fund-raising efforts.
"We are finding that so many funding sources are turning their attention to health-related issues," she said. "Their focus isn't exactly toward the arts so our team has had to search very, very hard" for additional funds.
The Jaques Art Center board hopes to expand the existing facility by 1,400 square feet, as shown in this preliminary drawing, with a $300,000 building project next year. The expansion will conform with the building's neo-classical style, visible in the existing structure.
In recent months, the center has tapped several public and private sources for about $100,000, including $40,000 from an anonymous private donor, Holm said.
The project would expand the downtown Aitkin facility by about 50 percent, adding 1,400 square feet of gallery, classroom and office space.
It would also make the turn-of-the-century building -- built originally as a library -- handicapped-accessible with a commercial-grade elevator.
"Our first priority," Holm said, "is to have all our visitors get to all floors and they can't do it now. There's not a spot in the building that can be accessed without going up the stairs.
"Priority two is to have a permanent home for our original Jaques art," she said, in reference to the museum's purpose of preserving the works and memory of Francis Lee Jaques, an internationally renowned wildlife artist with Aitkin roots.
A gift shop, now located in the second floor's exhibit space, and the basement administrative offices would be moved to ground level in the new addition. The basement would be converted to classrooms.
"The new Jaques Gallery binds us to our mission by offering permanent display space for original Jaques art," the center's recent newsletter explained. "The collection of more than 100 books and publications (by and about Jaques) ... will become available for research and public enjoyment."
The newsletter said that a fund-raising team is "seeking grants and personal contributions in an amount more than $200,000," in the hope of avoiding borrowed funds.
The center operates as a nonprofit corporation, making contributions tax deductible.
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