Julie Brewer

Artists embrace historic building as a new home

Too many free-floating, untethered artists and arts groups in Auburn, just looking for a place to do their thing: poets, painters, creative types of all stripes.

Too many free-floating, untethered artists and arts groups in Auburn, just looking for a place to do their thing: poets, painters, creative types of all stripes.

Maybe there should be a place for them.

Which is what the City of Auburn means to supply with its recent purchase from King County of the old Auburn Post Office/Public Health Building at 100 Auburn Ave.

Last week and during the recent Auburn Art Walk and Wine Tasting event, 50 to 60 people checked the building out for themselves and then gave City staff their impressions, as the process of converting the landmark building into a downtown Center for Arts and Culture gets on its feet.

“A great building with so much potential,” said Lela Brugger of Auburn Valley Creative Arts, one of those frequently uprooted arts organizations, now in the old Rottle’s store on East Main Street. “A place for different art, for ideas like pottery and computer photography.

“There is the space for sure. I am impressed,” Brugger said. “A fun place to show art and do art. That the city of Auburn is supportive of the arts means a lot.”

“It’s got good bones,” Daryl Faber, director of Parks, Arts and Recreation for the City of Auburn, told the City Council of the building’s condition during a work session Monday.

King County and the City agreed to a purchase price of $350,000 for the property, which has been vacant since October 2008 upon Public Health’s move to a larger site on Auburn Way North.

The City secured a contract with 4Culture, the cultural services agency for King County, as part of the county’s Building for Culture bond program. A $200,000 grant from 4Culture is to reimburse the city for the cost of property acquisition and related capital expenditure associated with the creation of the Auburn Arts Center.

The City’s initial work will focus on the first floor, and then, from a list of private foundations, Faber said, it will “be gleaning every nook and cranny for outside funding,” for the interior renovation of the building. “Heritage projects like this are usually funded well via the county and state.”

King County and 4Culture partnered last year to create Building for Culture, a $20 million program to help create and renovate diverse rural arts and heritage facilities throughout King County. The purchase was made possible in part by this program.

Signed into law in late 2015, the $28 million fund provides grants to 102 arts, culture and heritage projects throughout King County.

“We’re really excited about doing something downtown. … This is going to be a very popular project that satisfies a lot of local needs,” Faber said.

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