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Work on $1.5 million Arts United theater could start next month

Seek city planners' approval for design of 'black box'

Friday, April 5, 2013 - 12:01 am

A little later than planned, construction of a $1.5 million addition to the Auer Center for Arts and Culture could begin as early as next month.

Arts United of Greater Fort Wayne, which owns the building at 300 E. Main St. in downtown Fort Wayne, has asked city planners to approve the design of the 8,000-square-foot “black box” theater, which would be attached to the building's east side.

When the project was first announced in September 2011, it was hoped work could begin by late 2012 with completion by this fall. Now, however, construction could end in December, said Arts United Executive Director Jim Sparrow. A $500,000 donation for the project from the Madge Rothschild Foundation was announced in 2011, but Sparrow said construction was linked to having sufficient cash in hand. Just 40 percent of the money had been raised at that time.

Sparrow said Arts United had the theater in mind even when it bought the former Fourth Wave Building in late 2010. Unlike a traditional theater, the “black box” will feature a flat floor, movable lighting grid and up to 241 removable seats, giving it the flexibility to accommodate a variety of performance types. "We didn't need another traditional theater downtown," he said.

Sparrow expects Art United members such as the Civic Theatre, the Fort Wayne Ballet and the Dance Collective will use the space. But it could also be available for community theater, and special-needs performers and people in wheelchairs could benefit from the flat auditorium, he said.