The Spruill Center for the Arts wants to expand its facility due to capacity and space issues.
Spruill CEO Alan Mothner spoke before the Dunwoody Public Facilities Authority about the expansion during a Monday meeting. The Public Facilities Authority is made up of members of the Dunwoody City Council. As the owner of the building that houses the Spruill Center, the authority is responsible for approving any alterations to the building.
“We’re at the point now where we’re really just beyond capacity and are unable to continue to develop further programs based on those capacity issues,” Mothner said. “Spruill has been around, as you guys know, for a long time and helped in the formation of the city … and any successful city needs to continue to invest in those partners.”
The proposed expansion of the center at 5339 Chamblee-Dunwoody Road would cost $2.3 million, with a $1.3 million donation from Spruill to go towards the project. Mothner said the project would add seven additional classroom spaces.
“This project is shovel ready,” Mothner said. “We are ready to go with your permission tomorrow to start moving this forward.”
According to Mothner, Spruill’s enrollment numbers have recovered to pre-pandemic levels of enrollment. In 2021, Mothner said the center offered 764 classes serving 8,147 students. Almost 450 potential students remained on Spruill’s waitlist in 2021 and were unable to enroll.
Mothner said that the center is limited to 10 full-time and one part-time studio, many of which are medium-specific.
“We can’t teach a darkroom class in the jewelry studio,” Mothner said. “We can’t teach a jewelry class in a mixed media studio. We can only teach ceramics in the ceramics studio. So those classes can only be taught in their respective spaces.”
Mothner said that COVID-19 safety protocols have exacerbated the lack of space, but also said that the center may never go back to larger classes, preferring more intimate instruction in a smaller class.
“It’s a better experience for our students to have smaller class sizes,” Mothner said. “They get better instruction. What we can do with the expansion is instead of having one ceramics class at a time, is having two at a time.”
The new classrooms would include two additional ceramics studios, a glass and stained glass studio, a dedicated space for the center’s blacksmithing program, a wood turning space, and an open studio, which Mothner said could be used for mixed media or any other overflow classes.
The plan also calls for an expansion of Spruill’s kiln room building, which Mothner said holds eight kilns and nearly 500 students work. He asked the authority to consider letting the center expand the kiln building immediately in addition to considering funding the Spruill expansion.
“We are ready to expand this kiln room now,” Mothner said. “We’d like your permission to begin the process of that, and that would be something that would be fully funded by Spruill.”
Councilmember Tom Lambert said he was in favor of supporting Spruill, but didn’t know if the authority could commit to anything before defining where the funding would come from. He didn’t know if two weeks, the amount of time until the project comes back before the authority, would be enough time to nail that down.
“Before any decision is made, we would have to know specifically the source of that funding, where it’s coming from,” Lambert said. “We wouldn’t be prepared to make that decision probably at least until our retreat, which is the latter part of March.”
One of the options that Mothner brought forward for funding would be to waive Spruill’s rent, which is paid to the city.
“Our ideal situation would be a combination of funding from the city and rent waiving,” Mothner said.
Councilmember Stacey Harris asked that Spruill take into account the amount of electricity that kilns use when considering the expansion of that room, and asked that there be a sustainability component of the expansion.
The authority decided to review the kiln room expansion at a meeting on Feb. 28, but will take longer to review the full proposed expansion.