DUNWOODY, Ga. — The Spruill Center for the Arts has a clear priority for 2020: expanding its space so it can offer more classes to more people.
Since 1993, the Spruill Education Center has been located at the North DeKalb Cultural Center on Chamblee Dunwoody Road, a space it shares with DeKalb Public Library, the Stage Door Players and the Chattahoochee Handweavers Guild.
From this location, the center offers more than 800 visual arts classes annually to more than 5,000 students of all ages and skill levels.
“People come here for every reason under the sun,” CEO Bob Kinsey said. “We have people who go on to professional careers in the arts, folks who just want to develop a specific skill. There are people who see this as stress relief from their day job, folks who come here to socialize, and lots of empty nesters and retirees.”
However, the Education Center can’t keep up with demand. Their most popular classes — usually ceramics and jewelry making — sell out quickly, and people are constantly asking them to offer new disciplines, like woodturning.
“It’s a good problem to have,” Kinsey admitted. “But we don’t like to have to turn people away. That’s why upping capacity is our main priority for 2020.”
The city’s new North Shallowford Annex has provided some temporary relief for Spruill Community meetings. For instance, the Dunwoody Homeowners Association meetings are now held at the annex, freeing up classrooms at the Cultural Center for the arts center to use.
To further meet demand, Spruill has the architectural plans to build eight new classrooms. The plans add on to the northeast wing of the building, creating a two-story mirror to its existing hallway of classes. The plans also include revamping the courtyard the arts center shares with the library.
“We would like to have this built and be growing into it by the end of the year,” Kinsey said. “Now, it’s just a matter of resolving the money.”
Initially, the arts center was looking for a three-way split for financing the project, with Spruill putting in one-third of funds, the city of Dunwoody putting in one-third and the final one-third coming from grants and arts foundations. Making it a city project, however, could create additional bureaucratic hurdles and extend the timeline, which the arts center wants to avoid, Kinsey said.
Further complicating the discussion is the Old Austin Elementary site. With the school moved to its new location, the city gets the old facility. The city is working with a contractor to study what to put there, which could include moving some of the groups currently located at the Cultural Center.
Despite the lingering questions, Kinsey said he is confident the city and the arts center are close to reaching an agreement and that the City Council and new mayor have all been supportive of the arts.
“We want people to know that we hear their cries, we’re trying to do something and we’re excited about the opportunities this could bring,” he said.