Christian art center, downtown?

Generally, when my mind wanders with daydreams of a missions focused art center (retreat, colony, center, I don’t know what to call it exactly), I imagine twenty acres in the countryside. Hence my last post on the matter inquiring about the use of farmsteads as anchors for the place.

This week I’ve pondered putting the center in the middle of Siloam Springs, Arkansas. This is a result of the recent revival in downtown Siloam and conversations about the city center’s available real estate — hashed out mainly with the owner of The Baby Habit.

So far as I can tell (without actually having talked to a realtor) the buildings on each of the corners of Wright and Ashley are for sale. Three of the buildings formerly formed a lumberyard, one represented a tile shop and coffeehouse and gracing the last corner in question are the Creekview Flats.


I’m having fun imagining the kind of positive impact such an institution might render on modestly populated Siloam Springs, especially the impact on downtown. The spaces seem more or less ideal for such a proposal: The lumberyard for studios and galleries; the buildings across the street, including the tile shop and coffeehouse, for classrooms and the Creekview Flats (which are still on the market, though being rented out) for housing. The lumberyard and flats were both just remodeled, but the flats would probably need to be split into ten 1,200 square foot apartments. Presently they are five 2,400 square foot condos, which — in my opinion — is why they remain unsold. There just isn’t the demographic here willing and able to spend $250,000 on living space downtown, from what I can tell.

Imagining cost is a bit difficult. Buying all of the flats gets you going at $1.5 million (which they are not worth, especially in this market), before any renovations to add kitchens upstairs. Apparently the tile shop/coffeehouse building is on the market for only $80,000; as I recall it was round about 3,500 square feet. I haven’t the slightest idea what (or, honestly, if) the old M&D lumberyard is for sale, but I assume so. It constitutes, basically, an entire city block by itself. Take into account other remodeling, purchase of equipment (kilns, wood shop, forge, easels, chairs, tables, office equipment etc. etc.), an initial marketing and design campaign, a savings account for maintenance and some sort of endowment for scholarships and I suppose we’re looking at $2.5 to $3 million.

Any donors out there with that kind of capital interested in this kind of project?

About pcNielsen
Paul Nielsen founded The Aesthetic Elevator late in 2005. He owns a piece of paper, located somewhere in his house (not on the wall), stating that he earned a B.F.A. from the University of Nebraska around about 2001. While there, he studied studied architecture, graphic design and ceramics, graduating with a degree in studio art. Paul presently serves as communications manager for a small non-profit doing their print design and marketing. He spends as much time sculpting in his studio as possible — which is not nearly enough. Visit his website at

10 Responses to Christian art center, downtown?

  1. John Lein says:

    You really shouldn’t think so small Paul 😉

    Fascinating ideas. I agree on the Flats, and yes you’re about right on the tile shop. No idea on the lumberyard, but it must be available somehow and would make a great workshop area.

    So you’re thinking an art school of sorts? Accredited or just for learning? Always fun to discuss such things.

    The current model of accredited schools for official “degrees” at enormous expense is, I think, too limited these days. I would picture a more free-form model for learning’s sake. Charge a modest fee per class, plus a monthly subscription to use the facilities for your own projects, and let people find their own course. I’m picturing something geared more towards the local population (no need for housing, and imo why not let visitors find their own housing eliminating a huge portion of the cost). Maybe JBU would subsidize part of the costs as an extension of their art program for which they could charge their huge costs for the credit if you need that.

  2. pNielsen says:

    Check my other links in the post for a few more of the ideas, but I’m NOT thinking accredited. This is more of an artist colony, although that’s not the best way to describe it either.

    What I envision is a place for Christian artists interested in furthering their craft and learning about a Biblical theology of the arts. I’m thinking of longer stints than any retreat, and even than most internships I know of. Apartment living but still regular assemblies. Individual studio spaces and communal galleries and classrooms. And, as stated above, a focus on getting artists involved in cross-cultural missions. Somehow.

    Finding their own housing is an interesting idea but probably less appealing to the demographic I have in mind (assuming it exists, which I believe it does). And my original idea, a retreat in the countryside, would necessitate housing anyway.

    It was just this morning that I thought of JBU being involved. Of course, it wasn’t until this week that I thought of it being in Siloam!

  3. Africableu says:

    Er, Paul? I don’t know if you were counting M&D’s old door shop in that once-owned-by-the-lumber-co three, but if you were, my husband Casey just bought that last month. It will be the office of Marietta Construction ( He also bought the empty lot to the right of it for parking–but as far as I know, the tile shop/coffeehouse next to it is still up for grabs.

    Just thought I’d update your vision a little for you, with my limited insider’s knowledge 🙂

    Now that I’ve revealed I’m a sometime-lurker on your site, I’m off to Hannah’s site to see what she’s reading. She KNOWS I read her blog, though.

    Have a good afternoon.

  4. pNielsen says:

    Drat and blast! The door shop was part of the plan!

    Wasn’t a real proposal anyway, just a new twist to an old dream. Technically, the door shop isn’t on the corner in question, but I was assuming it was part of M&D’s property.

    And lurkers are always welcome!

  5. Sometimes new twists keep old dreams alive – even if they don’t work out.

    I like the dream though Paul. I read back to your Feb 07 post as well.

    As I read, I got a sense that Art as Missions for you is mainly overseas? I may be wrong on that, though.

    I know in Canada, where I am living, there are many artists who don’t know Jesus, but would love Him if they did! Or so I believe.

    My future plans involve becoming a missionary TO those artists, as an artist myself, in the North American context. Actually in my own neighborhood.

    My “hood” is urban, close to downtown, and there are many buildings for sale as it is an old neighborhood. Many artists have moved here in recent years because of lower housing costs. Buildings are available for the same reasons.

    Want to come up to Edmonton and start your centre here? There is certainly a need and likely cheaper real estate. You’d even have at least one helper.

    Seriously though, keep dreaming. And perhaps stretch your dream around local missions as well. I believe arts missions is one huge way Christ wants to connect with North America.

  6. By the way – what plugin are you using for email notifications on these comments?

  7. pcNielsen says:

    You’re right, my focus is cross-cultural missions. As people say, “There are people right here that need Jesus.” No one’s going to deny that, but right here in N. America there are generally an abundance of churches right around the corner from a person’s house. Further, 98 cents on every dollar given to missions does NOT go overseas to least reached peoples, but stays at home. I’m much more interested in focusing on unreached people groups that have never heard, and in fact CAN’T hear about Jesus. That doesn’t mean, of course, I ignore local outreach. But in the context of the idea laid out in this post, the least-reached peoples are who I have in mind.

    And I haven’t the slightest idea how email notifications are handled on this theme. I’m not self-hosing TAE yet, so it’s whatever’s built into the beast.

  8. Pingback: Body Creative Network » Blog Archive » Friday Five: Free To Be Random

  9. Pingback: Abandoned prairie schools as art center « The Aesthetic Elevator

  10. Pingback: Abandoned prairie schools as art center « Scissortail Art Center

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: